Sentara recruits local, diverse suppliers
With the COVID-19 pandemic exposing weaknesses in the global supply chain, Sentara Healthcare is ramping up efforts to diversify its vendors, committing executive leadership and resources to growing partnerships with local and regional suppliers, as well as companies owned by women, veterans and people of color.
“We are being intentional about seeking a broad range of vendors,” says Terrie Edwards, a Sentara corporate vice president. “We strive to work with vendors that reflect the communities we serve. That results in a richer, broader environment, yielding better outcomes and leading to suppliers reinvesting in jobs in each of the markets we serve.”
The Norfolk-based health system, which has 12 hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as dozens of outpatient facilities, spends about $2.4 billion annually on its supply chain, but the pandemic spiked that figure to more than $3 billion. With supplies constricted during the pandemic’s height, the company increasingly turned to local and regional vendors, like Suffolk-based Kerma Medical Products Inc., a veteran- and minority-owned manufacturer of nursing products, including digital thermometers and fetal monitor belts.
“COVID showed us how fragile our supply chain is, and we began to look for vendors closer to home,” explains Jennifer McPherren, vice president of supply chain and chair of Sentara’s Supplier Diversity Executive Council, which seeks to increase contracts with diverse local and regional firms. “Our goal is to bring things within our continental borders and regionally and locally. Kerma met our integrity standards and has been a great partner.”
Sentara’s initiative benefits diverse companies throughout the health care industry, says Kerma President Joe Reubel. “It provides access and refocused communication that has already demonstrated to be beneficial for immediate sales growth,” he adds. “It is exciting that together we can have an impact not only in the health care industry but also in our communities.”
Along with offering quarterly education sessions to help smaller suppliers navigate the bid process, Sentara recently hired a manager of supply chain diversity to expand the vendor base.
“We want to grow resiliency in the supply chain by aligning opportunities to ensure products get to where they are needed at the time they are needed, in the quantities needed, and do what is best for patient care,” Edwards adds. “If we can do that using suppliers in the Virginia and North Carolina markets, that’s even better.”