Suppliers struggled to get goods to hospitals in the frozen Northeast and earthquake-scarred California last week.
In California, collapsed highways and hundreds of earthquake victims sometimes called for extraordinary steps. Flooded by victims of shattered glass, 313-bed Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, Calif., issued an urgent call for laceration trays. Its regular supplier needed three hours to bring the goods.
The state highway patrol and an ambulance service said they couldn't deliver merchandise. Called by the hospital, Baxter International hired a helicopter, which landed 45 minutes later in a church parking lot near Valley Presbyterian, said Diane Kortz, a customer-service manager for Deerfield, Ill.-based Baxter. The hospital's landing pad was busy accepting injured patients.
In the Northeast, cold and snow knocked out trucks and roads. State patrolmen turned back drivers delivering supplies from Pittsburgh to Charleston (W.Va.) Area Medical Center on Monday, Jan. 10, said Alan Shearer, director of materials handling at the 818-bed hospital. The drivers, from Stuart Medical, arrived Tuesday but then were stranded, Mr. Shearer said.
"This has been a crazy year for us," said Richard Byington, president and chief executive officer of Greensburg, Pa.-based Stuart. "We've had to deal with the riots in Los Angeles, the floods in the Midwest, now the weather in the East and the earthquake."
Hospitals' efforts in the past few years to keep fewer supplies on hand have made regular deliveries more vital, Mr. Byington said. Delays can sharply cut inventories. "Our concern elevates dramatically if we can't get there in three days," he said.
Hospitals' dependence on regularly delivered supplies has led to the development of formal disaster plans for suppliers. Stuart's California contracts, for example, contain clauses that spell out backup plans for deliveries after an earthquake hits.
This time, deliveries required more time and alternate routes, said Dan Outlaw, operations manager of Stuart's La Mirada branch.-Lisa Scott