By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is creating an evolving situation with varied impacts across the United States and around the world. Beyond the obvious impact to mental and physical health, the expected number of organizations that are projected to fail due to the pandemic is staggering.
The fundamental question for the remaining organizations, like MedShare, actively responding to the pandemic is not only how can we survive, but how can we thrive and increase our impact?
For MedShare, it was critical for us to pivot our operating and delivery models to ensure our focus was conducive to short-term survival along with long-term resilience and increased impact.
Prior to the pandemic, our primary focus was on strengthening health systems in developing countries. This was critical as many of these systems are fragile and unable to survive even the slightest disruption. Also, the lack of access to quality medical supplies remains a major hurdle in improving health outcomes. Since 1998, MedShare has provide over $238 million in humanitarian aid to 117 countries that supported care for 26 million people.
However, once the pandemic reached the U.S. we were met with severe disruptions to our supply chain and major obstacles with shipping internationally. Often it takes a crisis the size of the COVID-19 pandemic to force us to look at our local health system in the U.S. and the inequities that exist. These inequities are only exacerbated by disasters, whether they be major storms or pandemics. Marginalized communities continue to pay a heavy toll when we are faced with crises of this magnitude. The forgotten ones, more often than not, are minorities, the homeless, and those that are either medically uninsured or severely underinsured.
It should come as no surprise that these groups would be disproportionately impacted by a global health pandemic. Stepping in to address this need are the countless safety-net clinics that are an essential resource for underserved communities. Safety-net clinics have long played a critical role in ensuring access to quality health care for non-Medicaid insured minority and low-income populations with a high burden of chronic illness, and they continue to do so today amidst one of the world’s worst pandemics on record.
In fact, when it comes to vulnerable populations, safety-net providers are thought to have a comparative advantage in addressing unmet social needs related to language, culture, employment, and transportation, compared to non-safety-net providers. What’s more, many of these health providers live in the communities that they serve, which helps to build trust and strengthen ties to the community.
MedShare pivoted our model to strengthen our support of local safety-net clinics and front-line health care providers that recognize that access to quality health care is vital to the ability of individuals and communities to thrive.
We also figured out a way to keep serving our international partners by creating smaller, heavily PPE-centric air shipments to countries battling COVID-19 with extremely limited resources.
This year working together with our partners and supporters, we have been able to provide 5.6 million units of PPE to over 240 health care institutions worldwide. 220 of these organizations are here in the U.S. We provided critically needed face masks, along with other types of PPE and equipment, including ventilators, gloves, gowns and head coverings, to more than 4 million health care professionals and patients.
The pivot we made in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with our other programmatic interventions, allowed us to improve the lives of 4.8 million people this year in 61 countries, including the U.S. This represents close to 3 times the 1.7 million people served the previous year and underscores the importance of remaining nimble in order to continue to serve those who need us the most no matter what the circumstances may be.