Hospitals in many regions of the United States are already beginning to experience a surge in COVID-19 patients. As hospitals work to maintain an adequate supply chain in unprecedented times, many leaders are tapping unexpected sources and pursuing creative solutions to prepare for the surge. The following interview was conducted with the CFO of a hospital located in the Southeast, who wishes to remain anonymous.

In all Kaufman Hall interviews, the expert opinions expressed are those of the interviewees and should not be considered opinions of Kaufman Hall. This interview was conducted on March 19, 2020.

Q: How are you preparing your supply chain for the expected surge in COVID-19 cases?

A: We’re planning supply chain needs with a surge level that we anticipate will double every six days. For example, for the highest surge level over a 30-day period, we will need approximately 400,000 N95 masks, and we currently have roughly 7,200 in reserve.

Q: How are you approaching the sourcing of supplies?

A: We have a primary and secondary supply chain. There’s also Amazon and Home Depot, of course. And we’re literally having a conversation this morning about producing things ourselves. We’re talking to some local manufacturers to see if they can assist us with that.

Q: How would you describe your current situation?

A: At the moment, we think we’re in the early phase of the surge. We’re beginning to dip into our reserves. We’re working with the CDC on appropriate utilization of the protective personnel equipment (PPE) and the reusability of the PPE. If you have well and healthy medical professionals that you can’t keep safe, then you have to take that capacity out of production. We need the PPE to be able to keep a team on the field that’s safe. At the moment, it’s hard to share PPE, specifically because it’s in such scarce supply.

We are using all of our ventilators at this time. We do not have enough currently for the surge, so that’s on the list as well.

There are a lot of industry groups that we participate in. Multiple parties are aggregating information regarding bed capacity, supply capacity, ventilator capacity, and so forth to get a sense and monitor and advocate on a national level. Everyone is looking at a hockey stick growth curve for coronavirus patients, and trying to prepare for the hockey stick while trying to field a team that’s safe today. Both of those needs are challenging.

Our state recently sent testing supplies to us, so we’re turning on a drive-through testing site today.

We’re requiring individuals to have a physician order through our virtual emergency room’s physician visits. If our online emergency room physician gives a prescription for the test, those people can come through our drive-through location. The state helped us resource a day or two of testing. The priority for that goes to necessary medical and law enforcement personnel.

Q: What’s your assessment of the future availability of testing supplies?

A: Over the next few days, it’s going to be a real-time situation. The health department we work with currently has scarce testing supplies. To date, the allocation of those tests is not in a position to meet demand. Some insurers have been working to get the laboratories to release more tests to our market so that we can do testing here. That has been helpful as well, but we haven’t realized any outcomes from that yet.

Q: What supply chain advice would you give other hospitals who are anticipating a surge?

A: People should run the numbers of what potential surge demand could be and begin to develop alternative sourcing strategies. For example, the people who we buy scrubs from locally have a huge container of N95 masks that are currently in a U.S. port. But it’s not yet on our dock, and there have been situations where shipments fall through.

So, get your secondary sourcing, have good visibility and controls over the acquisition. Don’t put trust in anything until it’s on your dock.

Q: Any other big picture advice for your peers?

A: Number one: Recognize that things can change overnight. Number two: Get in control of your front door. Number three: Try to keep standard operating procedure and introduce as few changes as possible so as not to confuse. Number four: Stay in really close touch with your physicians and your schedulers as leading indicators.