Health

Some Kentucky health providers are receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost thanks to a statewide supply chain initiative.

The Kentucky Primary Care Association (KPCA) is providing free access to a PPE warehouse stocked with highly-sought after equipment like gowns, masks and gloves. About 100 KPCA member providers are currently receiving equipment as part of the program, though other clinics are also participating on an “as-needed” basis, chief operating officer Molly Lewis said.

“The providers are necessary and essential to the delivery of healthcare in Kentucky, and it’s important that they have access to the protective equipment so that the health care workers feel safe and secure in delivering the services,” Lewis said.

“What we can do is come together as an organization to support the access and take care of the administrative burdens that they’d otherwise have to focus time and attention to. We take that load off of them and handle it so they can do their primary purpose, which is to take care of patients.”

All the equipment is paid for upfront by KPCA. Other organizations, like Humana, have donated funds to the program.

The warehouse’s stock is managed by Handle Global, an international supply chain company. Lewis said many providers in Kentucky ran into problems obtaining equipment when the pandemic hit.

Caps on equipment orders, which existed before coronavirus began spreading, prevented providers from stocking up on PPE. Access to Kentucky’s disaster relief stockpile was also limited to those who anticipated running out of PPE in a matter of days.

“Our members wouldn’t otherwise have access to the quality we’ve been able to get,” Lewis said. “We can have larger buying power because Handle serves other organizations across the nation. We’re able to capitalize on that volume and get better pricing.”

The company is able to make larger purchases at better prices than individual hospitals and clinics would have access to on their own. He said the supply chain has been disrupted due to significant increases in demand for PPE, said Kyle Green, founder and president of Handle Global.

“We’ve been able to help them navigate very chaotic waters,” Green said. “We’re trying to bring order to that chaos by helping them source items appropriately and provide a full-service solution.”

Raw materials and manufacturing costs have increased, Green said. That volatility makes it difficult for individual clinics to have buying power, especially smaller providers.

“As of now, they’re the group that’s kind of the most left behind in terms of getting access to the right products,” Green said. “The bigger health systems, everybody thinks about, but you’re really exposed when you’re meeting a patient and you don’t know whether they have COVID or not. To be protected at that particular moment is crucial.”

Green said he expects the warehouse to continue operating for a “protracted period of time,” even after vaccines hit the market.

John Boyle is WFPL news editor. Previously, he was a reporter and editor at focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.