Supply chain leaders from Vizient, UC Health tell senators hurdles abound in securing pandemic supplies

Group purchasing organization Vizient and other medical supply chain leaders testified before Congress July 30 emphasizing the need for greater transparency in the medical supply chain and detailing the challenges health systems have faced in getting supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The hearing was held by the Senate Finance Committee to discuss ways to improve the medical supply chain. 

Cathy Denning, RN, group senior vice president of sourcing operations, analytics and the Center of Excellence at Irving, Texas-based Vizient, said she was testifying to expose the "predatory practices" of companies trying to exploit the vulnerability of the medical supply chain by making false promised and offering unsafe, exorbitantly priced medical supplies to health systems around the country during the pandemic. 

Ms. Denning said Vizient holds a unique perspective on the problems facing the U.S. medical supply chain since the company works closely with both health systems and suppliers. She detailed an experience faced by member hospital Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health finding a significant number of counterfeit respirators when attempting to source the products from a new vendor. 

Rob Wiehe, chief supply chain and logistics officer at UC Health in Cincinnati, Ohio, said his hospital learned there were "many scams and promises of large quantities of supplies coming from outside of the U.S. These scams involved large sums of money being placed into escrow or cash in advance for goods that did not materialize."

He said UC Health tried to mitigate risk by placing orders among several smaller vendors versus relying on a singular large purchase, but during the vetting process found a significant number of the FDA and third-party testing certificates from the potential suppliers were not able to be verified. 

Ms. Denning said Vizient is asking suppliers to provide information on the manufacturing and raw materials of supplies and on the movement from manufacturing facility to the hospital. 

Transparency also needs to come from the government regarding the Strategic National Stockpile, the supply chain leaders agreed. Mr. Wiehe said goods from the stockpile arrived at UC Health unannounced and sporadically. 

Ms. Denning said the stockpile should have at least 90 days of critical supplies on hand, such as drugs needed to treat COVID-19. 

Watch the full hearing here.


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