Crushing COVID: Supply manager anticipated ‘zombie apocalypse’
Back when a new, dangerous flu emerged in 2009 and ultimately became known as the H1N1 pandemic, Glenn Schmidt was managing supplies for University of Colorado Hospital.
H1N1 served as a wake-up call that a bad flu year can quickly wipe out essential supplies of masks, gloves and gowns and other critical supplies.
And Schmidt vowed that he never would be caught short again. So, he enlisted the help of leaders and colleagues and started building up reserves of essential supplies.
“You can’t have everything under the sun. But, we identified 75 items that we had to have on hand in case a disaster hit the hospital,” Schmidt said.
He jokingly called the reserves his “Z-hold.” The “Z” stands for zombie. Schmidt and other UCHealth leaders hoped there would never be a zombie apocalypse. But if the zombies came, Schmidt was determined to be ready.
Well, they came.
Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020. University of Colorado Hospital has evolved into UCHealth, which is now a 12-hospital system. And the need for personal protective equipment or PPE was startling as cases of COVID-19 hit Colorado hospitals.
“Consumption during a pandemic is about 10 times greater than normal,” Schmidt said.
On top of that, this zombie apocalypse wasn’t just hitting Denver or Colorado. It was hitting huge regions of the world, and many of the factories that manufacture medical supplies are located in the Wuhan region of China, where the coronavirus first emerged.
“It was the perfect storm,” Schmidt said.
“It wasn’t just PPE. We had to contend with shortages of other items that come from China and the Far East. All of the factories were literally shut down. It wasn’t just masks and gloves. It was supplies like catheters and respiratory items as well. That district of China represents 70% of manufacturing for medical equipment around the globe.”
To cope with COVID-19, Schmidt, leaders and his team acted fast. They centralized supplies for all UCHealth facilities at a Denver warehouse. To conserve valuable PPE, the team gave providers at each facility exactly what they needed and asked them to be mindful of how much PPE they were using. Then, the 63-year-old father of four and grandfather of six tapped relationships from 40 years in health care to purchase necessary supplies.
The Z-hold gave him a critical head start. Thanks to Schmidt, UCHealth hospitals and staffers never suffered the kind of shortages that forced doctors in hard-hit areas like New York and New Orleans to have to create homemade PPE or go without.
“The fact that we had reserves gave us some breathing room. Then, we canvassed the nation to get what we needed. We are fortunate that absolutely everybody at UCHealth came forward to crush COVID.”