There are countless obstacles associated with providing medical equipment to countries affected by war and humanitarian crises, with increased difficulty for individuals in need to access potentially lifesaving products. That’s why finding the right procurement solutions at the right time is crucial.
With nearly 16 million individuals within Ukraine currently needing humanitarian aid, simple yet essential medical supplies can make all the difference.
Procurement services are more relevant than ever in this regard, acting as an essential link between manufacturers and populations struggling to access resources.
Finding reliable procurement solutions that can efficiently cover the logistics behind sourcing, negotiating and delivering healthcare equipment is key in a context where wholesaler stocks are at an all-time low and circumstantial delivery issues inevitably continuing to arise.
In this piece, Anne Mayfield, procurement officer at Unimed Procurement Services (Unimed), shares valuable advice on what it takes to successfully complete a medical procurement mission based on the company’s recent experience in sourcing and delivering first aid kits to Ukraine.
What factors make a difference?
In recent months, medical experts have highlighted the lifesaving impact basic medical consumables can have in these circumstances, and with UK medical equipment donations to Ukraine nearing 11 million items, charities and individuals are doing their part to contribute.
However, charities delivering big donations actively rely on the help of providers. NGO Khalsa Aid International recently approached Unimed Procurement Services to request assistance in delivering first aid trauma kits to civil conflict zones in Ukraine.
With soaring prices and delays expected for those looking to source medical supplies, the charity was struggling to find reliable suppliers capable of providing bespoke kits in a cost-effective, timely manner.
Procurement expert Anne Mayfield is keen to emphasise that these circumstances demand the skills, knowledge and resources to work around unfamiliar conditions, as well as committed individuals willing to go the extra mile.
She states, “The right answer involves having the necessary expertise to quickly create ad hoc solutions under changing circumstances.”
And when outlining the logistics of the project, she says: “First and foremost, procurement services need to work with charities to determine exactly what will be needed, outline the possibilities with full transparency and go from there.
“It’s really important that the client is fully aware of what’s possible at every stage, but they should also have the peace of mind of knowing that there’s a full team behind the operation that can find solutions to target their needs.”
No matter how setbacks are dealt with or how long it takes providers to find a solution, it is clear that communication, transparency and problem-solving skills are important across the board.
Overcoming the challenges
Increased need for medical consumables in response to the Ukraine crisis has naturally led to rising prices and longer waiting times for stock to be provided by wholesalers, with some claiming delays of 14 to 20 weeks.
“Some of the issues we encountered involved very limited and costly stock being available from European wholesalers due to being in the early stages of the Ukraine crisis,” Anne begins.
“As a result, we negotiated directly with manufacturers in China to offer our client a more cost-effective solution that would help the charity save time, money, and guarantee reliability.
“For the length of the Ukraine mission, we also worked with leading international transport & logistics provider Bolloré Logistics, as well as coordinating with our office in China to ensure everything was running smoothly,” she continues.
At a time when even the smallest of delays can have serious repercussions, finding solutions such as collaborating with trusted partners and working directly with manufacturers made all the difference.
Unimed was able to source, put together and deliver 5,000 fully personalised first aid trauma kits in just 25 days, which would have cost four times the price had they relied on European wholesalers.
These personalised kits include simple yet essential items such as tourniquets and gauze, capable of providing comfort and preventing wounds from deteriorating, causing further issues or injury.
These are just some of the hurdles that organisations such as Unimed need to be equipped to handle to be successful in providing services throughout a humanitarian crisis.
Logistics, liaison and delivery: devising different solutions
One of the biggest challenges is planning ahead to deal with the demands of supplying into a war-stricken country with numerous conflict zones, as well as infrastructural damage and power shortages.
Anne says, “Having the expertise and resource to negotiate with different partners, source medical consumables from various suppliers, put them together and send them on short notice is essential.
“It’s all about working with the right people to find alternate options to assist companies or charities who may be struggling and providing a quick response while offering flexible, experience-driven services. There’s always a solution.”
Following Unimed’s example, medical procurement businesses must go back to the drawing board, adapt to new and changing requirements and strive to find the right ways to effectively contribute to the cause.