For perspective on how quickly everything went from feeling “normal” to anything but, only four days passed from the first public case of the novel coronavirus in NYC, a healthcare employee, on Sunday, March 1, to Friday, March 5, 2020, when NYC healthcare workers suddenly faced a shortage of N95 respirator masks. In a timeline of how the pandemic hit NYC in New York Magazine, this is the entry for Friday, March 5, from Michael Einhorn, president of Dealmed, a Brooklyn-based medical-supply company: “I’ve spoken to two hospital CEOs and one very high-ranking executive looking for N95 masks. Our call volume is up around 400 percent. We do have a very limited supply, but it’s only for our current customers. We take that decision very seriously. What’s more important, dialysis centers or a hospital? I’ve been through several of these cycles, none of those compare at all to the coronavirus.”1
Dan Symon, chief procurement officer for the NYC, was familiar with complex supply chain apparatus across the board—but even the most sophisticated healthcare supply chain teams in the city were struggling to get any PPE inventory whatsoever in the early days. For the city itself, medical supply is not typically a huge piece of their overall municipal procurement. Within days, it suddenly became a most critical component. As Symon recalls, they spent the first few weeks struggling, like everyone, to get whatever PPE they could and were stockpiling the inventory in a number of locations. By April, once they got their footing, they were able to start conceiving of a rational operation. It was clear the city needed to step in to provide a stockpile service center to support the entire healthcare center in NYC.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Peter Saviola of Medline was also beginning to see the impact on the healthcare supply chain and how leaders and customers were beginning to react. By early-to-mid-March, Medline had been receiving calls for help managing stockpiles of inventory throughout the country. Medline had done this sort of thing in the past with third party logistics (3PL) and such, but the increased demand started streaming in from a variety of health systems and city and state municipalities. It was around late April, early May 2021, Saviola recalled, that the City of New York put out a request for proposal (RFP) for a professional operation and management of the stockpile program that would serve to back up the whole of New York City operations.
Medline’s warehouse of NYC pandemic stockpile