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DHMC, other hospitals turn to online matchmakers to swap supplies

  • In this image provided Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, Respiratory Care Practitioner Craig Skirvin, wears a face shield, Friday, May 1, 2020, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center;s Medical Intensive Care Unit, where it cares for COVID-19 patients in Lebanon, N.H. The hospital had extra face shields but needed hand sanitizer, so it swapped with another hospital on one of several new online matchmaking platforms that enable hospitals to swap supplies or get donations of them to quickly fill supply gaps. (Mark L. Washburn/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health via AP)

  • This 16-ounce bottle of Vermont Strong hand sanitizer, shown on April 29, 2020 at the UVM Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., is part of the supply being made through a collaboration of local distilleries and a kombucha maker for the University of Vermont Health Network. The hospital had extra hand sanitizer but needed face shields, so it swapped with another hospital on one of several new online matchmaking platforms that enable hospitals to swap supplies or get donations of them to quickly fill supply gaps. (Charles Miceli/University of Vermont Medical Center via AP)

  • In this April 15, 2020 photo provided by the Afya Foundation, four volunteer retired nurses count and box donated sterile surgical gowns for distribution to New York City metro area hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and community agencies at the Afya Foundation warehouse in Yonkers, N.Y. (Mary Grace Padaguan/Afya Foundation via AP)

AP Medical Writer
Published: 5/12/2020 9:43:43 PM
Modified: 5/12/2020 9:43:36 PM

Facing shortages of protective equipment as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, hospital systems in each of the Twin States tried the latest twist in internet matchmaking: online swap meets.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and UVM Medical Center in Burlington have taken advantage of online platforms that have popped up to match hospitals that need masks, gowns, ventilators and even doctors with those that have extras. And other projects have been started to link hospitals with nontraditional sources of equipment.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this,” said Michelle Hood, chief operating officer of the American Hospital Association. “It’s sure made a difference to those who got supplies when they really needed them.”

Last month, the UVM Medical Center was short on face shields. But it had surplus hand sanitizer, which it got from local distilleries that partnered to make 16-ounce “Vermont Strong” bottles, said supply chain director Charlie Miceli.

Meanwhile, his counterpart at DHMC was hunting for hand sanitizer.

They turned to The Exchange at Resilinc, a new online trading platform from Stanford Health Care, hospital consulting group Premier Inc. and logistics software company Resilinc.

Miceli and DHMC’s Curtis Lancaster posted descriptions of what they needed and what they could trade. They were matched up and swapped 500 of each.

“It gives you some breathing room so you can go track down more supply,” Miceli said.

The collaborations fill gaps until supplies from regular distributors arrive. They also help the finances of hospitals that have seen revenue plummet as lucrative scheduled surgeries and outpatient services nosedive.

Resilinc CEO Bindiya Vikal said N95 masks, the most protective type, are the top requested item.

“There are more than 9,000 items that are in various stages of being rationed,” she said, including some medicines and multiple brands of protective gear.

Chaun Powell, Premier’s disaster preparedness head, noted the project also is arranging loans of ventilators, patient beds and other equipment.

The online swaps are a counterintuitive result of the widely reported U.S. medical supply shortages: Hospitals also have some surpluses, due to unexpected private donations, government allocations, shipments ordered months ago finally arriving and declines in patients as virus hot spots shift.

In just its first two weeks, The Exchange at Resilinc had more than 900 hospitals participating, plus thousands of surgery centers, nursing homes and other facilities. They have posted requests for more than 575,000 items and offers of nearly 1.8 million items as of May 11. A dozen trades covering thousands of items, mostly protective gear, have been completed in barely three weeks, with more pending.

Most of these new platforms launched in mid- or late April. Others include:

■ Vizient, a hospital consultant and group purchasing organization, has set up a site for hospitals with spare supplies to donate or sell them to other hospitals.

■ Cohealo, which arranges for hospitals to temporarily lend pricey but rarely used medical equipment, is helping to coordinate a national reserve of breathing machines. When hospitals lend ventilators to others with shortages, Cohealo handles pickup and shipment.

■ Helping Hospitals is finding doctors and other medical workers whose regular jobs have been disrupted to work temporarily at hot-spot hospitals. It’s a partnership of staffing agency On Call Physician Staffing and malpractice insurer Curi.

Meanwhile, other organizations have stepped in to assist hospitals in need of supplies.

The Afya Foundation, a charity that normally sends poor countries medical supplies donated by New York-area hospitals, switched roles in March after those hospitals requested help, said founder Danielle Butin.

Afya has been sending items donated by nail and beauty salons, auto repair shops, plastic surgeons and even farmers. It has already sent about 140,000 masks alone to more than 110 hospitals and other medical facilities in the New York City area.

Health Equip — an app linking the hospital association, Kaiser Permanente, UPS and consultant Kearney — is collecting unused protective gear donated by construction companies, dental practices and other businesses, plus gear made by alternative manufacturers, and matching it to the hospitals closest and most in need.

“The demand is incredibly high,” said Suketu Gandhi, Kearney’s digital supply chain head.

Health Equip already has received 136,000 donated pieces of protective equipment, mostly masks, which are being sent to more than 100 hospitals nationwide.

Another collaboration, RetailersUnited, is connecting hospitals with manufacturers and other businesses that want to donate services, materials or money.

The goal is to get manufacturers to temporarily make personal protective equipment. Among recent pledges: Hasbro is making face shields and designer brand Lacoste is making masks.

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