UPMC Facilitates Global Collaboration to Source PPE During Pandemic

By: Courtney Caprara and Rebecca Fischer

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded across the world, UPMC faced a unique set of challenges as one of the only academic medical centers managing and operating hospitals internationally. With operations in China, Italy, Ireland and the U.S., it was critical for the health system to ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for its health care workers and the communities it serves around the globe.

PPE on cargo plane for SicilyIn a true example of cross-continent collaboration, UPMC International, with the assistance of Brother’s Brother Foundation in Pittsburgh, worked with UPMC’s robust supply chain network and strategic partners to deliver masks, gloves, face shields, gowns and ventilators to critical locations in China and Italy over the last three months.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, UPMC International donated multiple pallets of PPE to Brother’s Brother Foundation for guaranteed distribution to needy hospitals in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the crisis. UPMC has been operating in China since 2011, and recently announced a partnership with Wanda Group to design and manage multiple hospitals across the country in the years to come.

“When so much was still unknown about the dangers of COVID-19, UPMC International stepped up to provide supplies in China’s time of need. A significant amount of the world’s PPE is manufactured in China, and as the virus spread, our China-based team was in a unique position to help the rest of our colleagues around the world,” said Jeffrey Bernstein, UPMC International senior vice president and country manager for UPMC in China.

As the need for these life-saving supplies grew in Italy, where UPMC has operated for more than 20 years, UPMC’s staff on the ground in China, including Katrina Wei, Tang Ji, Joyce Xiao, Siran Tan and Derek Yuan, essentially became emergency procurement agents. They worked with UPMC colleagues in the U.S. and Italy to secure 250 tons of PPE for the Region of Sicily, where UPMC-managed ISMETT, one of Europe’s leading transplant hospitals, is located.

“Our colleagues in China did not hesitate to go directly to PPE factories, ensuring the quality of the products met our standards and that the suppliers had the capacity to fulfill our orders. They used their network of contacts to establish and expand relationships with reliable suppliers across China, which will help all UPMC facilities worldwide as we continue to fight this virus,” said Dr. Bruno Gridelli, executive vice president, UPMC International. “The dedication of our China-based team allowed us to help our partner, the Region of Sicily, meet a critical need at a time when our country as a whole was overwhelmed by COVID-19.”

PPE unloaded from cargo plane in Sicily.In addition to tracing the supply chains back to the factories, UPMC’s team in China even used telecommunications tools like Zoom to allow colleagues from overseas to join factory visits. They then coordinated complicated purchasing and transportation logistics.

Two fully loaded charter planes arrived with nearly 800 cubic meters (standard pallets) of PPE for the Region of Sicily in April. After coordinating with Siew Lee Grand-Clement, UPMC China vice president, clinical operations, nursing and quality, and Raymond Moluski, vice president of supply chain, Brother’s Brother donated an additional 30 pallets of PPE to the region. Brother’s Brother and UPMC have partnered for many years to fulfill the foundation’s mission of promoting international health and education through the efficient and effective distribution of donated medical resources.

“We are tremendously proud of our team for going above and beyond for the communities we serve in this time of crisis, and we thank Brother’s Brother for their generous contributions to our efforts,” said Chuck Bogosta, president, UPMC International. “We don’t let anything, including global pandemics, stop us from meeting the needs of our patients and staff.”