Materials management supplies MCH

They work behind the scenes, but Medical Center Hospital’s Materials Management Department is an integral part of the inner workings of the facility.
Director of Materials Management Cheryl McQueen said her department is made up of three areas — shipping and receiving, which intakes everything from supplies to capital equipment; the central supply department that supplies items to the hospital’s nursing unit; and a purchasing department that is responsible for placing all the orders to the hospital and overseeing the contracts for supply items that the hospital is part of.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, McQueen said Medical Center had vendors they placed orders with and they knew the time frames for items to be received into the system.
The hospital has a distributor that it gets a truck from four times a week and that’s where the majority of the supplies come through, McQueen said.
Supplies took two or three days to arrive before the pandemic, depending on the geographical location of that warehouse.
Now, things have changed, she said.
“That’s ever-evolving. It depends on what the supply chain is doing. We’re dealing with unprecedented allocations of supplies which are throughout the entire nation and we’re also dealing with raw material shortages and freight issues …,” McQueen said.
The ease or difficulty of finding supplies has gone in cycles, she said.
“I’ll tell you, all PPE has been hit throughout the entire nation,” McQueen said. “There really hasn’t been one PPE item, or one personal protective item, whenever it comes to your face shield and your mask or your shoe covers and your gloves that has not been impacted by this and the impacts are different. Some are shipping and receiving impacts of getting it through the borders or the docks and some are raw material issues that we come across.”
“It’s ever-changing. I think through the process our biggest hurdle was validating reputable vendors. We had our tried and true vendors that we had contracts with. They were stretched to their limit and started having to place the entire nation on back orders, or allocations, I should say and you were only allowed to purchase what your historical usage was before. When you have an increase in patients and you need to up their levels, you have to vet different vendors out to ensure that they’re reputable and that they’re able to provide a product that is safe,” she added.
She noted that their priority in materials management is safety for our patients, to ensure the products that they bring in are safe for them to use and for clinicians to have what they need.
“… We do take that to heart,” McQueen said. “We know that the products that we bring in are going to be the products that are going to be used to take care of this community. We go above and beyond to ensure the highest quality of products that we can bring into the institution for that.”
Director of Public Relations Trevor Tankersley said going through the vetting process to make sure sources of materials are reputable is something most people probably wouldn’t think about.
“We had to vet out many things and learned very early on to put together a clinical team of experts that could quickly help us look at a product, validate it and ensure that it was” acceptable to use, Queen said.
Since the pandemic began, local vendors and businesses offered donations.
“It gave me great pride to work here and to work in this community and see that as a whole when the situation in the beginning was ever-evolving they were willing to step up and make donations and pull from their own stock to ensure that we had what we needed and that gives me great pride to be a part of this community,” McQueen said.
McQueen said departments were being told to plan seven to 14 days in advance.
“I would say that right now we’re on a 10-to-14 day rotation of being able to place an order and get something in house. And all of that can change at a moment’s notice, just depending on what’s happening or what news breaks. The majority of what causes this is an influx of requests into the system which causes more allocations and more difficultly getting the supply,” McQueen said.
There have been numerous times when the hospital placed an order and received confirmation that it was on its way only to find out the truck had been pulled over, those supplies had been sequestered and removed and then taken to another location somewhere in the country that was a COVID hot spot.
“… I know early on, some of the companies began tracking the trucks with a Google Maps. They would watch the trucks … and a lot of them would have to call us and say your truck has been stopped and the supplies have been sequestered and they’re on their way to another location. We’ll try to replace your order and get supplies to you as quickly as we can.”
McQueen said it was something they had to face, although when she was interviewed they hadn’t had to deal with it recently.
“But that’s not to say with the increase in COVID patients that that’s not something we wouldn’t be faced with again,” McQueen said.
Physicians guide the hospital on reusing items.
The vetting involves an algorithm which helps determine if companies are valid vendors or not. MCH also works with other hospitals.
“… We are members of the Texas Purchasing Coalition, which is made up of 11 hospitals,” McQueen said. “The majority of those are in the state of Texas. We have weekly calls with them in regard to supply chain disruptions that they are seeing their area and disruptions that we’re seeing in our area and absolutely vetting out and helping each other. (If) somebody comes across a vendor that is a reliable source, we share that information to help each other out. …”
Supplies also are monitored closely.
“… Every single day we’re counting inventory levels,” McQueen said. “We’re communicating with the local, state, federal, our public health partners and to try to optimize our procurement and maintain the levels that we need to. I think that through this entire process we’ve worked out a system that seems to be working well for us now …”
Tankersley said if Materials Management wasn’t there or obtaining supplies ahead of time, MCH wouldn’t be able to treat COVID patients or give them the care they need.
“In light of the current pandemic, they’re behind the scenes but not really. They’re the unsung of what we’re doing here because if it weren’t for them we would not have the appropriate gear and the appropriate supplies to treat these patients the way they need to be treated, so we just want the community to know that.”
McQueen has 20 people who work in her area.
“I can honestly tell you this normally doesn’t happen for me, but I’m kind of at a loss for words at the amount of pride that I have in my team and what they have done,” he said. “They’ve worked countless hours … If we’re having to open up another area, it’s all hands on deck getting the appropriate supplies there so that the clinicians have what they need and the buyers.”
“I think people assume it’s like Amazon shopping. You just go and click on there and get what you need. They’re really having to think outside the box and put on an investigative hat and really look at resources that they’ve not looked at before to make sure that they uncover every stone to find the PPE that everyone in this nation and the world is looking for and trying to sequester to make sure their community is safe,” McQueen added.
She added that the pandemic has offered clarity to the roles on her team and what they do.
McQueen said they have the ability to change gears at a moment’s notice.
“… We will probably carry these life lessons that we’ve learned during this situation with us for the rest of our lives. I’m honored to be leading this team. The people who deserve all the credit in this area are the people who are out there working this every day and that’s the shipping and receiving department, central supply and purchasing department. I have an amazing team and they make it very easy for me to do what I need to do,” she said.