Knocking down doors to ensure our frontline is equipped to save lives | Western Cape Government

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Knocking down doors to ensure our frontline is equipped to save lives

11 January 2021

Running out of medical supplies or equipment is not an option during a pandemic. It can have dire consequences for patients and health staff. Ever thought of the people who need to make sure this does not happen? 

While most of us were fortunate enough to get some rest and spend time with family over the Festive period, supply chain management (SCM) staff at the Department worked tirelessly over the Christmas and New Years’ period. Their main objective was to ensure our frontline workers are protected and equipped to continue saving lives. 

Resources (supplies and people) to the frontline 

Coping with the Resurgence of Covid-19 cases and the influx of patients, the Department’s purchasing teams had to ensure our hospitals were fully stocked and equipped for extra patients. This resurgence came during a time when manufacturers and factories are usually closed for the Festive Season. A specific example was patient trolleys, which are an essential item to ensure sick patients can be treated while waiting to be admitted.  Days before New Year’s Eve the teams managed to convince the suppliers to open their doors, calling their staff back from leave, and deliver the trolleys by 2 January.  

Expanding capacity rapidly usually has a ripple effect: As we opened up additional beds, installed additional bulk oxygen tanks and new wards, we also required additional nursing staff, cleaning staff and security. These must be appointed on contract and follow strict regulations. Ad hoc quotation committees and bid adjudication committees, in line with supply chain processes, were therefore convened at extremely short notice at hours to provide necessary governance and oversight of the procurement process for odd infrastructure, cleaning and security. Interventions with nursing agencies took place to assist in placement of nurses (particularly in rural areas). Processing these also took place in record time.  

This type of turnaround time to ensure continued service delivery can only be achieved through the utmost commitment and by building good relationships with suppliers; it speaks of a shared commitment to get supplies to the frontline.  

Putting staff safety first: 

From the beginning it was clear that procurement of adequate PPE stock would be a challenge – experienced worldwide. 

Acquiring adequate stock requires a proactive approach; Our SCM team is liaising directly with international manufacturers to ensure continuity supply of respirators following the lifting of the US trade embargo. Through many hours of phone calls, e-mails and detective work to find suppliers able to deliver within regulations and time constraints, enough stock was always procured to ensure staff never ran out of PPE. Since the beginning of the pandemic the department procured over 19 million pairs of gloves, over 10 million masks, and millions of other PPE items. Through proactive procurement, based on current figures, the department projects adequate buffer stock for the next 3 months. 

Better efficiency 

Efficiency, inventory control and easy access are crucial considerations in terms of dealing with essential items, such as PPE stock. Over the New Year’s weekend, the teams moved the bulk storage facility to new premises to improve efficiency in management and access – ensuring that essential items remain available. SCM staff needed to pull out all the stops and quite literally “make magic”. Being given short notice to move over 1000 pallets of PPE (gloves, masks, gowns, respirators) while at the same time needing to refurbish the new warehouse took a collective effort and one which was achieved in record time. Between 15 December and New Year’s weekend 850 pallets were moved to a refurbished bulk PPE Store on the Tygerberg Hospital campus. Recalling the huge achievement, the warehouse manager, Mr Quinton Manuel, recalls, “an amazing team of 10 young people sacrificed their long weekend to ensure the seamless transfer of stock”. 

“From these stories, not all Health heroes work in the frontline or wear uniforms. There are many heroes throughout our system and the Departments is very proud of these teams and individuals for their support during this time. Their selfless actions and sacrifices mean this Department could continue saving lives over a busy Festive period”, says Dr Cloete, Head of Health.