According to an analysis of federal disaster declarations, nearly one in three Americans lived in a county affected by a weather disaster during the summer of 2021. And when communities are impacted by natural disasters, their local hospitals are too. As Vizient members know all too well, these weather disasters have come on top of the existing COVID-19 pandemic, further straining personnel and resources.
Though hospitals are required to have well-defined and tested emergency preparedness plans, in large-scale disasters they, along with city and state resources, can be stretched thin and supply chains disrupted in unexpected ways. That’s when the Vizient disaster resiliency and recovery team comes in, establishing a direct and real-time line of communication with the field teams in the affected areas, collecting information from distributors and suppliers, including days on-hand inventory and any known or potential disruptions in supply.
“We have a core team at Vizient that’s always at the ready, and that team can be expanded in very short order when the need arises,” says Christi Guess, Vizient associate vice president, member input and clinical solutions. Guess reports that the team has been busy throughout 2021, most recently helping members manage through increasingly severe and frequent natural disasters, as well as other disruptions posed by manufacturing or raw materials issues that often occur within our global marketplace. Vizient’s role when presented with these member challenges is to fill in gaps and solve problems with a sense of urgency and creativity.
This vital information, along with other valuable resources and tools, is constantly being updated and is available on Vizient’s disaster preparedness webpage (members only) to ensure supply reliability and sustainability of operations before, during and after a disaster. The webpage includes:
- Weather event trackers—Using information from the National Hurricane Center, FEMA and other federal and state resources, it includes weather-related events, regional impact zones, evacuation areas and facilities impacted.
- Clinical contract resources—Comprehensive resources from Vizient clinicians for medical and surgical management, infection prevention, safety, preparedness and more
- Supply chain disruptions—Distributor and supplier updates and regulatory statements
- Disaster planning tools—A comprehensive list of public and privately developed planning tools and templates
Support when you need it most
The information available on the member webpage is supplemented by Vizient’s disaster resiliency and recovery team, which is composed of both clinical and operational experts. With its vast network of suppliers committed to serving our members, Vizient steps in to make crucial executive-level connections in the interest of our members’ ability to deliver uninterrupted care.
“Those members located in an impact zone will receive a call from their Vizient client managers who work to identify gaps in supply. It could be pallets of bottled water, sterile water, pharmaceuticals, general medical supplies or personal protective equipment,” says Guess. “At that point, Vizient gets to work.”
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disaster resiliency and recovery team played an important role in screening brokers claiming to have available inventory, often helping members to avoid purchasing substandard, unsafe products or dealing with unscrupulous distributors making false promises. While new and existing PPE manufacturers in the United States received a huge boost from organizations such as Vizient to support increased domestic production, the team did its best to help member hospitals overcome severe shortages of PPE and other supplies. When production at two surgical gown factories in China was interrupted and led to a global shortage of level three and four surgical gowns, Vizient served as a liaison between the gown manufacturer and members, providing near real-time information to members as well as clinical support in cross-referencing and substitutions during the shortfall.
When Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana Gulf Coast on August 28, power outages across the region, including area gas stations, made it difficult for caregivers at an academic medical center to get to and from work. The institution reached out to Vizient for help. While fuel is not a part of Vizient’s contract portfolio, the team stepped outside norms, quickly became familiar with state regulatory guidelines, and successfully connected with distributors who were able to provide the health system with tanks and 15,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline so that caregivers could continue to serve their patients.
Support for employees from Vizient foundation
Since 1992, the Vizient Foundation has provided $13.45 million in financial support to almost 90,000 employees of member hospitals as well as Vizient employees affected by FEMA-declared disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. In 2020 alone, Vizient engaged in 11 disaster relief efforts, donating $155,000 to assist more than 10,000 people facing dire emergencies.
“You know, natural disasters are not respectful of holidays or weekends, and the Vizient team responds accordingly. We do not clock out,” says Guess. Members can reach the disaster resiliency and recovery team for inquiries related to natural or manmade disasters, supply disruptions or pandemic-related inquiries via email.