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How At Home Healthcare Has Managed During the COVID-19 PPE Shortage

TYLER, TX., April 30, 2020 -- In the early days of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, it was clear the nation's supply of masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) was inadequate for the task at hand – protecting millions of healthcare workers and patients from a mysterious, highly contagious novel virus. The mad scramble was there for all to see, as President Trump's daily news conferences highlighted efforts by multiple federal agencies to procure PPE and distribute it, particularly to the pandemic's hotspots such as New York.

The initial lack of any kind of centralized, coordinated approach to procurement left healthcare providers to their own devices. Many were forced to literally scour the globe for critical PPE supplies, and they still are. The experience of At Home Healthcare, a Texas-based home health provider in 110 counties, is a case in point. The company recognized the risk early and assigned two managers, Lara Siegenthaler, Vice President of Finance, and Allison Conlee, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, to spearhead the procurement effort.

“Medical supply chains implemented allocation levels based on previous order history as the best way to distribute what limited supplies they had,” Conlee said. “It became apparent that we were going to run into issues, as our order history wasn’t going to accommodate our needs.”

To make matters worse, Siegenthaler and Conlee found themselves competing for the same limited supplies with governments and companies around the world: Federal agencies, state agencies, other healthcare providers, and even non-healthcare companies who were trying to protect their employees.

The task called for creativity, resourcefulness, and a certain degree of tenacity. Siegenthaler and Conlee located masks from construction companies, fabric supply websites, office supply companies, Amazon, and Groupon. They purchased 100 liters of bulk liquid hand sanitizer from a local pharmacy and poured into individual spray bottles for clinicians. They even enlisted the help of co-workers and local community members to produce fabric masks following the CDC fabric mask guidelines.

Although At Home Healthcare now has adequate PPE supplies in all its 13 locations, Siegenthaler said the PPE search will continue. "We have enough supplies for now, but we want to always be prepared, and stocked, for any unexpected reoccurrences.”

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