Ohio Hospital Association Leads Efforts to Repurpose Manufacturing Plants and Provide Necessary Personal Protective Equipment to Hospitals in Need
In response to a surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) supplied hospitals with necessary PPE by working with local industry partners to repurpose manufacturing operations, securing jobs for thousands of workers across the state. In particular, these efforts greatly benefitted rural Ohio hospitals that otherwise faced significant challenges in acquiring the PPE and supplies needed to effectively care for members of their community.
These manufacturers, many of which had never produced health care supplies before the pandemic, filled the need for PPE with OHA’s support, ensuring Ohio hospitals had access to supplies and equipment necessary respond to the growing pandemic. OHA used ASPR Hospital Association COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Activities funding to develop a tracking mechanism, enabling OHA to connect hospitals that needed PPE with suppliers or other hospitals with surplus supplies. Hospitals also used ASPR funding to buy PPE from these manufacturers and through standard distribution channels when they became available.
“[ASPR funding] provided assistance to hospitals at a time when it was needed the most. We were honored to receive it as a state hospital association and to administer it to our members.”
-James Guliano, Vice President of Operations & Chief Clinical Officer for the Ohio Hospital Association
OHA also fostered critical relationship-building among often competing health care entities that went out of their way to share supplies and infectious disease expertise when needed most. OHA hopes that this collaboration will continue through the pandemic and in future all hazards’ responses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant stress on health care workers across the U.S., resulting in feelings of fatigue, burnout, and overwhelm as they continue in their seemingly endless efforts to care for COVID-19 patients. Health care workers in New York State have been feeling this fatigue the last two years and in 2021, they reached a point at which acknowledging and addressing the mental health impact of the pandemic was critical.
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, many health care facilities across the state of Ohio struggled to obtain PPE and high-demand medical equipment, such as mechanical ventilators. Meanwhile, the pandemic led many of Ohio’s manufacturing plants to pause operations, leaving thousands of workers without jobs. To help address the growing need for PPE, the OHA worked with industry partners to leverage the availability of resources and staff at manufacturing plants to address critical health care resource needs. This effort allowed these facilities to stay open during a time of very few orders.
OHA initiated a partnership with the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, MAGNET, Ohio Manufacturing Extension Program, and JobsOhio to form the “Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19.” This collaboration repurposed operations at manufacturing plants, many of which did not originally produce health care products, to create PPE for hospitals and long-term care facilities (LTCFs) in need of PPE. At the same time, OHA initiated its readiness stockpile effort, which served as a virtual PPE stockpile designated for the state’s 1,100 LTCFs and 245 member hospitals. In addition to creating a virtual stockpile, this effort partnered LTCFs with nearby hospitals to provide resources and support throughout the pandemic.
To ensure situational awareness of PPE needs across the state, OHA used a portion of its ASPR Hospital Association COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Activities funding to create the OHA Resource Tracker, a data portal used by all OHA member hospitals to report and monitor daily surge status based on intensive care unit (ICU), bed, and staffing capacity as well as ventilator availability and oxygen and blood supply. When a hospital indicated a need for PPE, OHA connected the hospital with either a nearby verified manufacturer within the alliance, the State of Ohio’s stockpile, or another hospital with surplus supplies to fill the need. OHA worked with each manufacturer to ensure the PPE produced was viable and to set up an online marketplace through the proper distribution channels. ASPR funding was also used by hospitals to purchase PPE from these manufacturers and through standard distribution channels once they reopened.
In addition to creating and managing the OHA Resource Tracker, OHA communicated multiple times a day with state policymakers and worked with Governor DeWine’s administration to divide the state into three zones and to identify three hospital leaders to lead zone-wide collaboration across hospitals, LTCFs, emergency response agencies and local public health officials. This ensured all parties were informed on the spread of COVID-19, load balancing, and facility needs.
Each zone was led by a health care leader point of contact and his or her affiliated organization. Examples of these leader organizations include the Cleveland Clinic, which covers northern Ohio; The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which covers central and southeast Ohio; and University of Cincinnati Health, which covers southwest Ohio. The zone system ensured full coverage across the state.