PRESIDENT ’ S / CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER ’ S MESSAGE
A “ Fireside Chat ”
At the conclusion of the APHL 2020 Virtual Conference in October , Bill Whitmar and Scott Becker sat down for a discussion about the state of the association , as well as the wild and crazy year that has been 2020 . This transcript is adapted from their discussion .
Public health laboratories have been asked to do many new things this year . What are some of the non-traditional roles or tasks that labs have been responsible for , and how does that affect our work ?
Whitmar : It really revolves around working with the commercial labs , university labs and hospital labs , who have been routinely unable to receive sufficient testing supplies . We receive hundreds of thousands of swabs and media tubes to this day , and they ’ re sitting in our warehouse . What we ’ ve been able to do is work with our state Emergency Management partners who have developed a website so those commercial and private partners can order what they need . We then fill these orders in our mailroom . So that ’ s a substantial amount of time to fill those orders , go to the warehouse , fill the boxes up , package them and send them off . Plus we now make space available in our warehouses for these pallets of supplies that we ’ ve never had to accommodate . That ’ s a huge time commitment by our staff that never was met before .
We were one of the laboratories responsible for receiving and distributing Remdesivir . When Remdesivir shipments came to us , we had to work with the Missouri Hospital Association to determine the allotments that went out to the hospitals — some hospitals received 10 vials , some hospitals received 150 vials — and that allotment distribution changed every week . We also had to coordinate with the Missouri state highway patrol to come to the lab at 7:00 pm , load up cars with coolers or 12-volt refrigeration systems to make sure that those vials remained cool , and then transport those vials seven hours across the state that same evening . That was really challenging for us for many , many months before the Remdesivir distribution system was put in place .
Becker : We ’ re very much used to supply chain management for our own institutions , but not on the kind of scale that laboratories took on this year . We ’ ve now been at this for almost 10 months . And while things have certainly improved since the spring , there ’ s still a number of challenges that we face . But the one thing I ’ ll say is , that the future is really unclear . There ’ s a lot of work that we have to do to continue to keep up with testing demands . And while we ’ re dealing with supply issues , we ’ re dealing with capacity issues at different parts of our system . Within APHL , in order to chart a plan for moving forward , we ’ re going to come back to basics . For us , the “ basic ” is really APHL ’ s strategic map . Honestly , until just a few weeks ago , I could not wrap my head around how we are going to come up with strategies for the future when we can ’ t get out of the vicious cycle of “ Test , test , test and deal with problems .” Starting to formulate a strategic plan for the next few years will hopefully help APHL more effectively examine breaking the “ test , test , test ” cycle .
What gives me hope is that we do have the means to combat this pandemic , and that we ’ ve always had them at our disposal . It ’ s going to take brave leadership , from the White House on down , to be able to tell people ‘ This is what we need to do .’”
Bill Whitmar , MS
2 LAB MATTERS Fall 2020