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Strengthening the Links in Disaster Supply Chain Management

Author: Laura K. Wolf, Ph.D., Branch Chief, Critical Infrastructure Protection Branch, Office of Emergency Management, HHS ASPR
Published Date: 2/1/2017 4:52:00 PM
Category: Innovations; Public Health Preparedness;

When you are responding to a pandemic flu outbreak, you don’t just need a safe and effective vaccines and antivirals – you also need syringes and other medical supplies so that they can be administered.  Sounds simple, but supply chain issues caused serious problems during the responses to the H1N1 influenza outbreak, Hurricane Sandy, and Ebola.

Healthcare and public health systems rely on the availability of products such as pharmaceuticals, laboratory testing supplies, personal protective equipment, and medical devices to care for the American people.  Availability of those supplies depends on complex supply chains which in turn rely on availability of raw materials produced in the U.S. and abroad.   Each year, billions of dollars worth of products are produced, moved across the country, stored in distribution centers, and used in healthcare facilities.

It takes a lot of effort and technology to keep those supply chains flowing on the average day, and it takes a greater amount of coordination and partnership between private sector and government to meet the needs of the healthcare system during disasters or long-term infectious disease responses. 

The ASPR/OEM Critical Infrastructure Protection Program partners with the private sector to enhance the security and resilience of Healthcare and Public Health Systems.  Over the last year, the team assessed the healthcare supply chain to identify challenges and opportunities for consideration by a working group of public and private sector partners.

Working through our Critical Infrastructure Protection Advisory Council (CIPAC) structure, we are organizing a Working Group to coordinate activities across Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government and private sector partners to ensure that all those working in this space have visibility on what’s going on around them and have the opportunity to work together to identify priority activities for alleviating challenges. 

The first order of business for our government partners will be to develop a standing procedure for coordinating large government purchases of non-pharmaceutical products such as needles, syringes, or PPE so that government purchases do not unduly burden the supply chain so that shortages of available product prevent private sector healthcare from providing treatment.  The Group will review existing authorities, policies, and ad hoc mechanisms utilized during Ebola and Zika responses to determine a path forward.

In the spring of 2017, we will expand efforts to support joint meetings of government and private sector partners to review challenges and opportunities and provide a mechanism for sharing of information and resources to support the activities of partners that meet those challenges and take advantage of those opportunities.

When disasters strike, seconds count.  Making sure that hospitals and health care facilities can quickly get critical supplies enables those facilities to better protect health and save lives. By planning with our partners now, we can help improve the next disaster response.

We are interested in hearing more about your challenges, concerns, priorities and great ideas.  Please feel free to comment on this blog posting or to reach out to our team at cip@hhs.gov for more information.


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