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Securing Health Care Supplies for Your Community

A group of local business leaders in Kansas City are tackling one of the biggest issues of the coronavirus pandemic: sourcing and securing test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). In partnership with The University of Kansas Health System, the C19KC Task Force (www.c19kc.org), consisting of Dave Cummings, CEO of Tradebot, and YPO members Andy Deister, CEO of Russell Stover Chocolate Company, Nathaniel Hagedorn, CEO of NorthPoint Development, Taimoor Nana, CEO of MTAR, Tyler Nottberg, CEO of U.S. Engineering, and Tucker Trotter, CEO of Dimensional Innovations, came together in response to an immediate need in their community.

Tyler Nottberg

“During this period of time when everybody is looking inwards and trying to protect their families and their companies,” says Nottberg, “now seems like the time to be looking outwards to help other organizations, other companies, other families, and our community in particular.”

COVID-19 Task Force: Taking action

After learning that Kansas City would have to deprioritize testing for COVID-19 due to a test kit shortage, the Task Force worked to procure 50,000 COVID-19 test kits at a value of USD1.2 million directly from a manufacturer. They did this by applying what they do best in business to the problem. First they researched manufacturing options and came across BGI, a global genomics company, which has processed over 1 million COVID-19 tests around the world. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of BGI’s rapid response test, which returns results within three hours, the Task Force emailed multiple executives at BGI to inquire about purchasing test kits. Within hours, they learned that there were 50,000 test kits and two rapid response machines for test analysis in a warehouse in San Jose, California.

Nathaniel Hagedorn

That information kicked off a quick succession of events: securing funding, partnering with The University of Kansas Health System to activate the tests, helping to set up a lab with the right equipment and supplies to process the tests, and coordinating with state and local authorities on where, when and how the tests will be administered. The money was wired to BGI within less than 24 hours of the initial inquiry and the first truckload of test kits arrived the last weekend of March. Increased testing of 2,000 to 4,000 tests a day is expected to go live the first week of April, and eventually the Task Force hopes to facilitate even more testing throughout the region.

“The business community can really step up and show a leadership position because we have the financial wherewithal, we have the logistics and supply chain expertise to help solve some of these problems,” says Hagedorn.

Getting started

Business leaders are in a unique position to take immediate action and solve problems that regional healthcare systems and local and state governments operating on the front lines don’t have the time or resources to address adequately. The first step: ask what hospitals and governments need. Rather than identify what you think is an essential need, the Task Force recommends asking the right questions so your efforts are well received and have the highest possible impact.

“This is a war that’s fought in hours and minutes, so we need to act fast to help people and save people’s lives,” says Nana.

Taimoor Nana

By focusing on isolating where the cases are through testing and preventing the spread of the disease through PPE, the Task Force hopes to help flatten the curve. In addition to the test kits, the Task Force is working to source, locate and import masks, and Trotter has developed an open source face shield design to help combat the global shortage of PPE for medical professionals fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Task Force is focused on insulating Kansas City first, Nana and Trotter both have diverted some supplies to hot spot areas like New York and Boston where there is a desperate need for help.

Applying skill sets

Andy Deister

“Not only did we feel the obligation to step in as business leaders, but we recognized the fact that the expertise each of us had in running a business, are oftentimes the skills needed to help identify and solve these problems,” says Deister. “All of us lead organizations of procurement, logistics and supply chains, and we raise funds, we have connections locally. These are skill sets that lend themselves well to solving these challenges.”

Until a week ago, Nana says that he didn’t know anything about masks. He manufactures surf clothing, but he realized that he could apply his knowledge of supply chains and linkages in different countries as well as contacts in Asia to finding masks. He began contacting different suppliers in China and Hong Kong, vetting factories and ultimately connecting healthcare organizations that need equipment with suppliers that have stock.

Lessons learned

Develop a mission. “It was important to define and establish a charter for our team so we could define who we are, what our objectives are, how we measure success, and how we evaluate opportunities that come in front of us, so that we can stay true to what we’re trying to do and ensure that all of us who are participating are on the same page,” says Deister.

Slow your roll. “Tempering your expectations of how fast things will move when interfacing with cities and states and large healthcare organizations was a major learning,” says Nana. “As business leaders, we move really fast and sometimes we may move too fast for other people to understand what we’re doing.”

Cross the finish line. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm as you ramp up quickly,” says Nottberg. “But then there’s real work that goes into some of these acute needs like making sure that you’ve got an infectious disease specialist looking at the face shields or putting the masks in a place where hospitals can access them. You have to stay on top of this until the very end, just like any project.”

To access the Kansas City COVID-19 Task Force’s playbook to help address the needs in your own community, contact info@c19kc.org.

For more stories like these, check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org.

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