Mediclinic hospitals are equipped and ready

Posted on 27 May 2020

By procuring appropriate protective equipment efficiently and timeously, Mediclinic is focused on ensuring best outcomes in a challenging environment.

When the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic in March this year, all eyes turned to hospital facilities and their stockpiles of crucial supplies. Ventilators, surgical face masks, temperature thermometers, even bed linen – from the earliest clinical definitions of coronavirus disease, it was clear these would be crucial.

“This is why Mediclinic SA began planning for an effective in-hospital response long before COVID-19 was first reported in South Africa,” says Annelia Bezuidenhout, General Manager: Procurement at Mediclinic Southern Africa, who leads a team responsible for acquiring a wide range of essential hospital equipment, from textiles and pharmaceutical supplies – such as personal protective equipment (PPE) – and capital assets, including ventilators and their various parts.

As with many other countries, both public and private stakeholders in the healthcare industry in South Africa face numerous challenges in sourcing high volumes of crucial medical equipment that is of appropriate quality – a situation made all the more urgent by growing demand, and subsequent shortages, all over the world.

Mediclinic SA is tackling these challenges head-on through careful planning and astute investment.

“Many of our traditional suppliers import their products” explains Bezuidenhout, “and we knew from what we were seeing overseas that those regular supply chains would be severely disrupted. So we looked at what we would need, and found some new ways to test and acquire it.”

Mediclinic SA expedited the regular replacement process for ventilators across its local hospitals, ordering the new equipment required ahead of schedule. The capital expenditures department were advised by the clinical governance team who survey the layout of hospital intensive care units and optimise these spaces to accommodate both additional ventilators and the necessary nursing personnel.

“We ended up ordering 160 extra ventilators, as that’s how many we can house and nurse effectively,” Bezuidenhout says. “Many of these have been delivered to hospitals, and the rest will be installed by the beginning of July.”

Mediclinic SA also invested in temperature thermometers specifically for the screening environment, including mobile testing units and hospital access areas, and additional, handheld video laryngoscopes that allow doctors a close-up look at a patient’s airway during the intubation process.

Healthcare workers and hospital staff also needed to be provided for, she explains. “Usually, our hospital staff are provided with corporate wardrobe items. We decided instead to expand our investment in scrubs; once the roll-out is complete our nurses, for example, will arrive at work in their own clothes and dress in surgical scrubs in designated, sanitised spaces.”

Mediclinic has a universal masking policy, providing patients and staff with appropriate masks. “We ordered over 70 000 cloth masks, these have been distributed to our staff for use outside the hospital as well as made available to patients as they enter the facility. Nurses and other health workers are provided with surgical masks, aprons, visors and gloves for use where appropriate within the hospital, while all other staff in non clinical areas wear cloth face masks.

A key challenge has been testing this equipment to ensure it is of a high enough standard. “With disrupted supply chains and growing demand, we have seen an increasing number of new suppliers,” says Bezuidenhout. “Not many of these are appropriate – but with a lot of research and testing, we’ve found a number of new supply opportunities that meet our stringent needs.”

One of those is alcohol. Due to a combination of global shortages and national lockdown, Mediclinic’s usual hand sanitiser supplier was no longer able to source pure alcohol. “Fortunately, we were able to reach out to Distell, our colleagues in the Remgro investment portfolio, who were able to provide access to their supply chains of unused denatured alcohol.”

Mediclinic SA’s corporate office in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, has been turned into a warehousing unit, she says. “What was the food cafeteria is now filled with boxes and boxes of supplies, coming in and going out. This is where we check, do some tests and assign products for distribution across SA. There have been obstacles, and there will be more, but we are confident that our hospitals have what it takes to meet this challenge.”

Published in Innovation