President Trump’s decision to stockpile N95 masks is an important but misguided decision. PPE is time sensitive and can deteriorate sitting on the shelf of a warehouse. When it expires, we not only lose our investment in the material, but we lose readiness as well. It must be refreshed on an ongoing basis.
A better decision would be to establish eight to 10 regionally based warehouse operations, each carrying the full menu of PPE and other materials. Hospitals would order normal operating resupply directly from these warehouses, rather than ordering material from a manufacturer on their own. This would allow the stock to remain fresh while maintaining a shelf-ready stock of emergency material. The warehouses would operate under a government owned-contractor operated (GOCO) principal, with the provider establishing resupply algorithms that guarantee a base level of fresh emergency supply.
Because the warehouse operation would order in bulk levels for a national customer, hospitals would enjoy the best price. Federal investment would be the initial stock, the operating and transportation costs and staff, as the hospital’s cost of resupply would become part of the operating budget of the warehouse utilized for the order.
Simply stockpiling material is an action insufficient to the task. We need to find tools that minimize costs while maintaining the freshness of resupply materials.