Top Tips for Securing PPE — and Avoiding Scams — as Nursing Homes Navigate COVID-19 Backlogs

As skilled nursing operators battle to elevate their place on the priority list for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, they have to combat the forces of supply and demand that have ravaged health care facilities across the world.

This includes problems with prices skyrocketing and supplies plummeting, as well as backlogs in shipping.

SNFs’ struggles to secure supplies — of both PPE and testing for COVID-19 have been top of mind for the Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals (SHOPP), which has released analyses related to this issue.

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In a webinar that the society held on Wednesday, leaders from various stakeholders in the industry discussed the situation on the ground in terms of securing supplies, and offered some key tips for operators trying to secure the right materials.

Check for updates

No matter how operators have chosen to try to secure their PPE and testing supplies, they need to remember to stay on top of the order and ask for updates, Michael Greenfield, the CEO of Prime Source Healthcare Solutions and one of the co-founders of SHOPP, said on the webinar.

“Everyone needs to pay attention, to figure out how to lower the cost,” he argued. “You should buy smart when it comes to getting your products here. You should every day ask your reps from your manufacturers and distributors what products are available, because allocation of products [is] becoming daily available.”

Greenfield specifically cited TwinMed, which he described being “forward-thinking” on reusable gowns; Medline Industries, which is starting to manufacture PPE items in the U.S.; McKesson; Henry Schein; and Owens & Minor as companies doing what they can. SNFs have to be in touch with their local representatives first and foremost on what is available, Greenfield stressed.

Go directly to the seller — and gear up

The next step is to deal with the sellers directly and preparing as much as possible — because the instant a COVID-19 case is discovered in a facility, that entire facility has to be equipped with gear “within two hours or they will literally exit every resident from your facility, and that is a crisis in and of itself,” Greenfield said.

The shortage of PPE creates a massive problem on many levels, but that makes it all the more imperative to prepare early, even if no case has been identified.

The fact that the coronavirus can spread and cause infections while carriers are asymptomatic was identified as a major cause of the spread in a SNF in the state of Washington, and that potential for rapid transmission makes it essential to have enough equipment to keep both residents and staff safe.

“[If you are] one of the fortunate ones that have not yet been hit, get ready,” Greenfield said bluntly. “You will be hit. It is a state of emergency. You need to be aware that if you are going to wait for the epidemic to hit you, it’ll hit you really, really hard.”

Vet products — and sellers — carefully

In the current environment, it’s now the expectation to provide cash now with delivery later – an unheard-of situation, according to Greenfield. That means post-acute providers have to wire money to product owners before a shipment goes out.

This makes vetting of the product essential to avoid becoming a victim to scams, he said on the webinar. Operators should check and count boxes to make sure that no products are missing.

If SNF operators choose to import, they have to check for reputable sellers. If possible, they should use companies that allow for a 25% deposit and let the money be put in escrow, and they have to try to account for order fulfillment as well, Greenfield noted.

The number of things that could go wrong range from the government seizing the shipment to the seller being less than truthful. That means engaging with companies bringing the products in from China, he advised.

And in any case, SNFs have to make sure that whatever they buy is actually appropriate to use — and is present in the packaging.

“Items need to be weighed, and you need to have it verified from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] website,” Greenfield stressed. “It’s really, really important for products that are on the ground to be verified, and deal with the distributors themselves — even if a broker takes a cut.”

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