Eight ASC leaders shared their biggest supply chain challenges with Becker's ASC Review.
Note: Responses have been edited for style and length.
Cindy Young, administrative director at Surgery Center of Farmington (Mo.): My biggest challenge at the current time is getting normal PPE supplies to perform surgical cases. My normal vendors have them on allocation, and we have noticed our allocation is not enough to get us through the month. We are searching other sites, including Amazon, to help close the gap. We have purchased from Amazon masks for patients to wear and bouffant caps.
Catherine Retzbach, administrator at Memorial Ambulatory Surgery Center in Mt. Holly (N.J.): I think everyone is having the same issue. There are many surgery centers in the country; however, they are individual small businesses. When it comes to supply chain, surgery centers are not known for ordering in large quantities, so we are not at the top of the list supply distribution. The biggest challenge we have found is product availability and the cost of the product. These two issues go hand in hand, making it a difficult year budgetwise and decisionwise on how to keep the centers running as efficiently and as cost effective as we do.
John Paoni, administrator at Physicians Care Surgery Center: Our biggest challenge for supply chain today is the increase in cost of PPE. For example, gloves jumped from $6 per box to $18 per box.
Janet Carlson, CEO at The Surgery Center at Midlands Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery in Columbia (S.C.): The biggest supply chain challenge today is the ever-changing availability of the required items we need to run our operating and procedural rooms at full speed during our busiest time of year in quarter four. My materials management team is very resilient and keeps ordering our full allotment for supplies. However, just because we are given a full allotment does not guarantee that we receive the full allotment ordered. There is a significant disconnect between suppliers and the end user who needs these items to provide excellent and consistent, safe patient care.
Andrea Jarvis, administrator at St. Vincent Surgicare in Evansville (Ind.): Our biggest supply chain challenge currently is the tremendous number of back orders since COVID began. We struggle obtaining personal protective equipment as well as drugs and various other items. We have stockpiled some items with no storage space because we fear being unable to purchase those items at a later date.
Otis Hall, coordinator for materials management at Allied Physicians Surgery Center in South Bend (Ind.): This virus has pulled me and my support materials staff away from our daily workflow in a major way. However, that was more so at the early onset of the pandemic. With all of our elective procedures being canceled, it was a nightmare for me and the materials coordinator to notify all the vendor reps who had previously been contacted regarding bringing products in for cases that aren't housed at the surgery center. Trying to find cases to see if they canceled altogether, or simply moved to a later date, was extremely time-consuming. This required six to eight hours per day until all cases had been addressed. It took up so much time that I hardly had time to call vendors for release dates regarding outstanding purchase orders. Reason being, it was imperative that I let our staff members know which orders were simply back-ordered and which orders that had been placed on allocation or held up in some way due to COVID-19.
Lynne McFarlane, clinic administrator at Christus Health surgery center - Olympia Hills in Universal City (Texas.): Supply chain has had huge hurdles since the onset of COVID-19. Struggling to find adequate amount supplies and having to use multiple vendors adds multiple layers of research. The demand is so high that our vendors are not able to keep up with changes. Limited supplies, vendors that are not on our group purchasing contract pose a threat to our safety as well to our financials. Surgery centers are limited on their allocation of goods since the onset of COVID-19 as supplies are prioritized to hospitals first.
I think that we are struggling with back orders. Supplies may be in reach, but their timelines are very slow to produce. An item can be on back order for months with limited communication, and it unfortunately drives the inventory up at the center since you have to use another product in the interim. Eventually, you have multiple orders hitting the bottom line.
Lori Martini, administrator at Specialty Orthopedic Group in Tupelo (Miss.): The biggest supply chain challenge we are facing is vendor allocations for key supply items, such as personal protective equipment. We have taken steps to reduce usage of PPE, including restricting students and discouraging breaking scrub unless absolutely necessary. It's very difficult to manage when we do not know what our allocation will be from week to week. In many instances, we have not been able to receive allocation for key supplies for some time. This includes items such as bouffant caps, surgical gowns and disinfectant wipes.