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Heroes carry on their healing work—thanks to others behind-the-scenes

Bellingham | November 10, 2020
Man wearing a mask pulls boxes out of his car
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Lean Management specialists stepped in to personally deliver PPE supplies to clinics so patients could continue receiving vital care.

Even heroes have heroes.

During the pandemic, doctors, nurses and others have been called heroes for the work they do to care for patients---and they absolutely are.

The frontline heroes recognize they can’t do what they do safely without behind-the-scenes caregivers who make sure the teams have the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment).

Jim Bochsler, MD, a PeaceHealth pediatrician in Bellingham, Washington, pulled back the curtain to share how Mohamed El-Sharo stepped in to fill just such a critical need in early April 2020.

Mohamed, a Lean specialist at PeaceHealth since 2016, said “In the beginning of the pandemic, one of the main issues was the global shortage of PPE. Like many other health care organizations, PeaceHealth couldn’t get all of its ordered supplies fulfilled.”

Things changed almost daily as manufacturers, suppliers and distributors scrambled to meet the increasing demand everywhere for masks, gloves, gowns and similar supplies required for safe care.

Mohamed El-SharoAs a result, supply companies started distributing supplies to “hubs,” he said. Basically, clinics had to each figure out how to get what they ordered from the nearest hub.

With his industrial engineering background and experience in healthcare at PeaceHealth and formerly at the Mayo Clinic, Mohamed is keenly aware of the critical nature of what caregivers in the clinics and hospitals do.

“In the pandemic, some industries can just stop offering services. In healthcare, you can’t do that,” he said. “Everyone was on full speed to take care of patients in the eye of the storm—even as experts were still figuring out the nature of the virus.”

“We couldn’t have reopened our clinics fully without solving the issue of distributing PPE supplies to each caregiver. It was an essential job and that’s why our Lean Transformation Office got involved,” he said.

Mohamed noted that his director, Aaron Dipzinski, was the first one to help with the situation and he asked the rest of his team for support with distribution. Aaron had also done a substantial amount of work with the supplier and distributor.

“My colleagues and I stepped into the gap temporarily in each of our communities to pick up supplies from the hubs and sometimes hand deliver them—in our own personal vehicles—to the clinics while also working to identify longer term solutions,” he said.

What Mohamed did for clinics in the Bellingham area, Pamela Hight did for those in Lane County, Oregon; Katie Bowser and Aaron did in Vancouver, and Robert Shaw in Longview, Washington, respectively.

One of the clinic mailroom staff had seen him making some deliveries so she sought his help when loads of boxes began appearing at the door—left by delivery drivers who refused to enter the buildings.

His compassion immediately kicked in. Mail distribution caregivers are used to delivering/managing envelopes, not heavy cartons. “It’s a physically overwhelming situation for any one person” besides increasing the potential for injury.

Mohamed met with Dr. Bochsler and other leaders to manage the situation.  In the short term—each clinic were sending someone to collect supplies—until something more sustainable was worked out.

The team worked with the distributors to train truck drivers on how to safely bring deliveries into the buildings—sanitizing in and out.

“We now (October 2020) have a better solution, sending supplies by intercompany mail using the skilled people who are dedicated to that purpose,” said Mohamed.

Dr. Bochsler said, “Mohamed’s graciousness and ability to listen and help people problem solve in this rapidly evolving situation were indispensable.”

Mohamed is shy about accepting the praise.

“This was something that was needed and I just stepped in,” he said. By stepping in and getting medical clinics what they needed in the pandemic, they could stay focused on caring for patients and saving lives.

While the clinical staff are indeed heroes to patients and their families, Mohamed is a hero to those providing care.

Isn’t that what heroes do? Step in, without hesitation, when needed.

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