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Behind the Scenes at Baptist Health: The Essential Business of Keeping Hospitals Supplied

Ever wonder what it takes to keep a hospital running smoothly? How about an entire health system? For Baptist Health South Florida, just like any enterprise that’s in the business of saving lives, ensuring critical supplies such as IV fluid, personal protective equipment and surgical instruments are where they need to be – when they’re needed – is a vitally important function.

Working seven days a week in Baptist Health’s Consolidated Distribution & Services Center (CDSC) in Doral, a team of 85 employees oversees the procurement, inventory and distribution of supplies essential to the daily operation of all Baptist Health hospitals, urgent care centers and other facilities. Although patients will never meet them, each team member plays an essential role in their overall experience.

(Watch now: Baptist Health’s Resource team takes you behind the scenes at the facility that supplies the entire health system. Video by Tony Vivian.)

Baptist Health, which has 11 hospitals and more than 50 outpatient centers from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach County, opened the CDSC in 2014 in order to centralize its operations and leverage its buying power with the hundreds of vendors in its supply chain. Here, in a cavernous, 152,000-square-foot warehouse, you’ll find everything from bandages and bedpans to servers, surgical instruments and more.

“Here at the Supply Center, we currently inventory over 5,000 items valued at more than $26 million,” says Yvonne Camacho, an inventory and control manager who started at the CDSC shortly after it opened. “The only thing you won’t find here are certain classes of drugs which federal law says must be shipped directly to hospital pharmacies.”

All office and IT supplies for Baptist Health’s 23,000-plus employees come through the CDSC as well, according to Ms. Camacho, as does employee mail. The CDSC is also home to a full-service print shop, which coordinates the production and distribution of medical forms, patient communications, hospital signage and other items for Baptist Health. Medical records are also stored here for retrieval when needed.

At 6 a.m. on a recent morning, the CDSC is already bustling with activity as team members in bright yellow vests execute a tightly choreographed routine of receiving, sorting, storing, selecting and shipping. A squad of “pickers” walks briskly up and down aisles lined by towering shelves, selecting items requested by supply chain officials in each hospital or facility. “On busy days,” warehouse associate Yuri Thompkins says, “a picker can walk 18 miles or more.”

Forklifts beep and spin and zip around the warehouse, hoisting hundreds of pallets stacked with supplies that must go out today. Pallets are carefully shrink-wrapped before being loaded onto a fleet of waiting delivery trucks and vans that will soon roll out all across South Florida. By day’s end, their drivers will have logged more than 1,800 miles. (And you thought your commute was bad?)

Priorities for the CDSC team changed suddenly in March when the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country, leaving hospitals scrambling for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other desperately needed supplies.

Anderson Tavares, manager of operations, distribution and logistics with Baptist Health South Florida

“Our role was essential to ensuring that every COVID patient had what they need and that our clinical staff had adequate supplies of gloves, N95 masks, face shields and gowns,” says Anderson Tavares, manager of operations, distribution and logistics at the CDSC. He credits Baptist Health’s leadership team and his colleagues for recognizing the challenge early on and acting swiftly. “They did a phenomenal job early in the pandemic. At no point were we ever out of PPE. We’re very proud of what we did.”

“Our supply chain team deserves a huge thank-you,” says Bo Boulenger, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Baptist Health. “Because of their resourcefulness, hard work and dedication, they were able to keep our employees and patients safe during this pandemic. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

If anything, the pandemic has reinforced for CDSC team members the essential role they play within the Baptist Health organization.

“Without our work, people can’t receive the help that they need,” says warehouse associate Michelle Munio. “You have a whole team of people here who want to help you and make you feel better. And Baptist Health is going to make sure you get the best care that you need.”

Her colleague, Yuri Thompkins, says the knowledge that he’s helping others is one of the things he enjoys most about working at the CDSC. “That’s always been big for me, knowing I’m helping people who really can’t help themselves.”