How 6 ASCs are fighting through supply challenges & preparing for a second shortage

ASCs have less buying power when competing against hospitals for supplies. Here, six administrators spoke with Becker's ASC Review on how they're approaching a potential second supply shortage.

Note: Responses were edited for style and content and were presented alphabetically.

Question: What will your surgery center do to get through a supply shortage?

Suzi Cunningham, administrator at Advanced Ambulatory Surgery Center in Redlands, Calif.: A supply shortage is one of many obstacles we are facing and is a real concern. Our materials manager, nurse manager and board members have all lent support this year to ensure we aren't caught short. Luckily, with proper planning — and a bit of hoarding — we have not gone without what we need. Honestly, it is also in large part due to the long-standing relationships we have with our suppliers. If it hadn't been for them, I'm not sure how we would have made it through. Moving forward, we will stay prepared for that rainy day and stock up.

Ashleigh Green, administrator at Novi (Mich.) Surgery Center: At the start of the pandemic, my team and I put together a personal protective equipment burn rate tracker in order to better understand our consumption of those items. As time went on, the healthcare industry realized a shortage of other non-PPE-related items, and therefore these were also moved onto the tracker.

Since February, we've been sourcing both PPE and other materials on shortage/allocation from various out-of-the-box vendors:

  • Auto manufacturers
    • Given we're located just outside of [Detroit, the] Motor City, we reached out to General Motors, who generously donated supplies such as medical masks and face shields.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
    • We've been working with FEMA on bi-weekly supply pickups.

We've also utilized our contacts at area hospitals to buy back any of their excess PPE. Given we expected a surge in COVID-19 cases during winter months, we prepared for this and have enough face shields, medical masks and N95s (among other supplies) to last us through at least February 2021. We continue to purchase PPE whenever available, while also keeping the high costs of PPE in mind and weighing that against the excess PPE sitting on our shelves.

Extended use is also a vital factor in maintaining our supply of N95s and non-sterile gloves. [Our surgery center's] ability to maintain supplies, including PPE, during this unprecedented time is truly a team effort from my front office, registered nurses, techs and leadership.

Deborah Goodman, administrator at APAC Surgery Center II in Oak Lawn, Ill.: We have found some other suppliers, and we have expanded our number of vendors. We also have some usage agreements with our primary distributor. Our PPE supplies are [also] sequestered and secure; we only have out what we need for the day [because] we have caught patients shopping [for] our gloves and masks.

Joleen Harrison, BSN, RN, administrative director at Mankato (Minn.) Surgery Center: It will be dependent on what supplies are running low. If it is PPE, currently, this has not fully resolved. We [receive] supplies in the nick of time now. We are often sent replacement items, and in some cases it's more costly for the center. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had been issued a state executive order that delayed elective surgery. We had criteria [on what procedures] we could do. [The state may issue another order] if the supply chain does not continue to keep up with the need. ... We are fortunate to have clinics to tap into for small quantities of similar supplies. However, this is not a sustainable plan because they also need these supplies. We continue to do what we can to stay ahead on the supplies as they become available. Ultimately, an executive order may override any plans we may have, which may change how we look at things in the future.

Jay Raifman, administrator at South Shore Ambulatory Surgery Center in Lynbrook, N.Y.: In short, we've been stockpiling any/all essential approved PPE, cleaning supplies and sanitizers through multiple sources. At the moment I believe we have enough in stock to go without a delivery for several weeks.

Ramona Robinson, administrator at Tresanti Surgical Center in San Ramon, Calif.: When we experience another supply shortage — not if — my facility has a three-month supply of PPE and medications on-site, as directed by our managing partner. We have a healthy supply chain so I am confident that we will be able to float for a three-month period. Certainly, this shortage of supplies is already occurring, so our reserves are already being impacted. This time of year is especially busy for ASCs, such as mine which is a gastrointestinal specialty center, patients have met most of their deductibles and are clamoring to have procedures right now.

I believe that all ASCs, hospitals and medical providers will all be in the same situation. [There are] too many patients and not enough supply to provide safe care. Many of us will be forced to close our facilities until the COVID-19 wave subsides.

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