Chartwell Pennsylvania L.P., part of UPMC Community Pharmacies, is a leading provider of home infusion therapy, enteral nutrition and specialty pharmacy services. Chartwell typically isn’t in the business of compounding hand sanitizer.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic required UPMC and other health care providers to adjust rapidly to meet urgent demands. Chartwell pivoted quickly to join the system’s efforts against COVID-19 by compounding alcohol-based hand sanitizer and viral transport medium (VTM) — which allows for the safe transport of testing samples obtained from throat or nasal swabs until it can be processed in a lab.
Meeting a Critical Need
To date, Chartwell has produced more than 30,000 bottles of sanitizer in the cleanrooms at its 52,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility. Compounded following guidelines from the World Health Organization, the sanitizer has met a critical need in UPMC’s hospitals, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center locations, outpatient sites and senior living facilities.
“During the pandemic, your focus has to change to ‘all hands on deck,’” said Kathie Patrick, president, Chartwell and UPMC Community Pharmacies. “Producing these products in-house was a departure from our core business. But like so many across UPMC, we looked for an opportunity to support the staff on the front lines and lend our expertise.”
Making sanitizer is a multi-step process, starting with Chartwell mixing the various ingredients in large vats. Then the finished product is bottled, labeled, tested, packaged and prepared for shipping.
That’s where Chartwell staff, including more than 150 employees who had transitioned to working at home because of the pandemic, jumped in to help. “It was a labor-intensive process, but it was the right thing to do under the circumstances,” Patrick said. “Many staff were coming in on weekends to help. I’m so proud of the teamwork.”
One of Chartwell’s biggest challenges during production was obtaining sufficient quantities of plastic bottles, which were also in short supply. On one occasion, Chartwell’s drivers made the trip from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to secure them. “We used whatever contacts we had to make it happen,” Patrick said.
Ensuring Access to Testing
Likewise, UPMC has gone to great lengths to make COVID-19 testing easily accessible in its communities. To assist in that effort, Chartwell assembled more than 52,000 units of VTM.
The fluid is compounded in a sterile environment and placed inside a test tube, along with the sample taken from a patient’s nose at a collection site. The fluid helps ensure that the sample is maintained in an environment that promotes growth but keeps the virus intact.
“Preserving the integrity of the test sample is vital to a lab’s ability to generate an accurate result,” said Dr. David Benedict, Chartwell’s chief operating officer. “A compromised sample could lead to the test coming back with a false negative. Anything we can do to maintain the safety of our clinicians and patients is always our No. 1 priority.”
Across the UPMC system, staff members are working diligently to find creative solutions to problems they encounter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the final installment of a three-part series highlighting their efforts. Visit the Inside Life Changing Medicine blog to learn more about UPMC’s response to COVID-19.