A new personal protective equipment manufacturing company is set to open in Cincinnati next year.
Bon Secours Mercy Health has established a strategic relationship with a locally based manufacturer of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Securing supplies of PPE was one of the most challenging healthcare supply chain challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, reliance on foreign suppliers of PPE such as China-based manufacturers led to shortages.
Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health has forged a strategic relationship with Emerge Manufacturing, which is building a 50,000-square-foot facility in the Roselawn-Bond Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. Emerge was founded by Cynthia Booth, a Cincinnati business leader and entrepreneur.
"We are excited to work with someone like Cynthia who has advanced thinking. She is all about the community. She is all about how we can bring to life not only local jobs but also a solution for a global supply challenge," Daniel Hurry, MBA, chief supply chain officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health and president of Advantus Health Partners, told HealthLeaders.
Advantus is a subsidiary of Bon Secours Mercy Health that specializes in supply chain functions. "We put up our own supply chain organization so we could do things more strategically, effectively, and efficiently rather than relying on third party resources that might be in a traditional group purchasing organization model," Hurry says.
Emerge plans to manufacture face masks, surgical masks, N95 masks, clinical gowns, and other PPE. Construction of the company's manufacturing plant is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2023, with an expected opening in early 2024.
Bon Secours Mercy Health has invested in Emerge, Hurry says. "We made a meaningful and significant investment. All the way from the start, we were talking about how to support Cynthia in making sure that we have resiliency in how we supply while supporting local communities. While there is a monetary investment, there is also strategic investment in helping to support and develop the relationship."
He declined to specify the amount of the financial investment.
The strategic relationship is focused on gauging the PPE market, Hurry says. "It is important that we are keeping an eye on the challenges that are in the market. We are looking at raw material factors. We are looking at logistics challenges. We are looking at what may need to be addressed in the future rather than what may have been a pinch point historically. It is no secret that masks and gowns were the highlight of the challenge historically. That does not mean that will be in the challenge in two or three years—it may be something else. Strategically, we want to have continuous dialogue and continuous engagement."
Advantages of domestic supplier of PPE
For Bon Secours Mercy Health, there are several advantages to having a strategic relationship with Emerge, he says. "An advantage is the direct connection on the full manufacturing process. It creates jobs locally. It creates jobs domestically. It keeps us aligned with what the market can bear in this particular product mix."
Having domestic sources of PPE is crucial for U.S. healthcare providers, Hurry says. "It is critically important to have a resilient portfolio that is not contingent upon a region of the globe. If you have shutdowns in plants overseas and they cannot produce or move product, you run into challenges where it does not matter what your logistics model is—there is nothing to move."
PPE is an essential supply category for healthcare providers, he says. "With PPE, we forget to talk about what it is. Personal protective equipment protects people from disease and the risk that comes with it. With those types of products, resiliency becomes even more important than many other products. When there are elective products, you still need resiliency but the risks at hand are not quite as dramatic if you cannot protect people on an ongoing basis."
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.
Bon Secours Mercy Health "made a meaningful and significant investment" in the new PPE company, the health system's chief supply chain officer says.
The new company will make face masks, surgical masks, N95 masks, clinical gowns, and other PPE.
For the health system, advantages of establishing a strategic relationship with the new company include creating local jobs and a direct connection to the manufacturing process.