Ontario’s West Region Develops Coordinated System to Address Urgent PPE Needs in Real-Time

West Region PPE Warehouse​

Across the province and throughout Canada, access to ongoing supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) has become a tremendous challenge. To more effectively and consistently address urgent PPE needs in Ontario Health’s West Region, a new process and ordering system was launched, led by Healthcare Materials Management Services (HMMS). HMMS, a joint venture between London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care, London, is the lead organization in the Ontario Health West supply chain collaborative made up of supply chain leaders from Erie St. Clair, South West, Waterloo Wellington and Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant.

The COVID-19 outbreak mobilized a strong collaborative effort within the region. These supply chain organizations came together to develop a centralized warehouse and distribution system to effectively receive and distribute PPE supplies across the region.

To help manage this initiative, the HMMS COVID-19 Regional Allocation Committee was established on a time-limited, as-needed basis to promote fair decision-making when setting priorities for scarce resources during the pandemic. With representation from HMMS’s regional partner organizations, physicians, ethicists and professional practice, the committee uses an ethical framework and consensus-based decision-making process to respond to the sudden and dramatic changes to the consumption and supply of healthcare materials.

Every day, the Committee reviews the status of all available PPE throughout the region to establish strategies that will ensure the sustainability of local PPE. 

By working collaboratively at a regional level, the supply, distribution and acquisition of valuable PPE that are required by healthcare professionals and other important frontline workers can be managed effectively, in a way that is responsive to local needs.

How the System Is Structured

The system is based around a hub and spoke model, and a virtual warehouse.

The virtual warehouse platform, a unique and innovative first in Ontario, centralizes data from multiple systems and provides a more reliable and transparent picture of the regional supply system, helping supply chain partners better track current PPE supplies and daily usage with near real-time information. It is updated daily, and includes links to online ordering, donation forms and more.

Built around this virtual warehouse is a physical warehouse and distribution system that ensures the region is ready to receive and send PPE supplies to providers across the West in a timely, consistent manner based on allocation directives and best practices. This system includes a centralized warehouse in London funneling supplies to several hubs in each former LHIN region. 

An example of a local hub is the Oxford County paramedics, who offered warehousing space and an existing inventory tracking system. They work with the Oxford County Community Health Centre to store the supplies locally and fill orders via the paramedics’ logistics team. These much-needed supplies are distributed to all the community partners, primary care, pharmacy, long-term care homes, community homes, and home care.