It’s looking more and more like winning the war against COVID-19 will be a battle of logistics — getting the right equipment and supplies where they’re most needed, when they’re most needed, and then moving them to the next hotspot when the time comes.
This may be particularly important for Florida, which isn’t expected to reach its coronavirus peak until late April, by which time (hopefully) other areas of the country will be able to route essential supplies our way.
While governors complain (perhaps rightly so) about shortcomings in the federal response, individual states and companies have been stepping up to make things happen.
The dire need for ventilators and PPE in New York City has been heart-rending, and officials there have been pleading for help wherever they can get it.
One example: Washington state and Oregon agreed to send more than 500 respirators to New York. Another example was when HCA Healthcare announced it was working to redirect respirators from its nationwide network of hospitals and get them to New York and New Jersey — a step that earned praise in a tweet by Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday.
Thank you to a great American company, @HCAhealthcare, for working to get ventilators to NY & NJ. In addition, rather than laying off their workers, HCA announced a special pandemic pay program for 40,000 employees. We’re grateful for their commitment to the American people.
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) April 6, 2020
One of the plusses of being a national hospital network is that HCA Healthcare has supplies all across the country and a logistics infrastructure capable of moving vital resources from one region to another.
In this instance, they saw coronavirus as an emerging threat several months ago and began buying PPE well before the rush. They have about 90 hospitals taking care of 2,500 patients with COVID-19 or who are waiting for test results, but all of its hospitals have been able to keep up with demand — so far.
The company has identified Miami as one of its communities with the most activity, so it could be just a matter of time before those logistics capabilities are needed to help our fellow Floridians.
In Florida, HCA Healthcare has just shy of 50 hospitals, and it’s taken care of roughly one-third of the state’s COVID-19 cases. The company has shown in the past that it’s nimble at moving supplies where needed within the state and from other states.
During Hurricane Michael, for instance, Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center was the only hospital in Panama City to never close its emergency room. Now, COVID-19 is a challenge that’s impacting people across a much larger geography, but the support for the New York area suggests the same approach will work once again.
In the end, the thing that will pull us — all of us — through this global nightmare is the fact that we’re all in it together, so we’ll all have to work together to outlast it.
HCA has taken steps to help others in the health care industry do just that by partnering with Google to develop the COVID-19 National Response Portal.
The HIPAA-compliant tool facilitates data-sharing about the COVID-19 pandemic so hospitals and health care networks nationwide can see how the disease is spreading to better inform their own logistical response.
Health care systems can enter their data — such as bed capacity, ventilator stock and test results — into the Google Cloud-enabled database, creating a more accurate snapshot of how the disease is spreading.
Efforts like what these states and companies are doing for New York, even though their constituents and customers are literally on the front lines elsewhere across the county, is an outstanding example of how our society endures.