Latricia Anderson looks unassuming in a hooded sweatshirt and gloves—functional items needed for her average work day at VA North Texas’ Dallas Medical Center. In 2018, Anderson and her four receiving co-workers personally handled more than $500 million dollars’ in medical equipment and supplies—each item critical to caring for the 134,000 active patients who receive their health care at VA’s second largest medical system.
“This is a light load,” said Anderson, a materials receiving handler at VA North Texas, as she received a FedEx shipment of 45 individual items, most marked “URGENT”, ranging from pharmaceuticals and human tissues, to specialized prosthetic devices. As the boxes are scanned off the truck, Anderson separated the items for delivery to the appropriate clinic, expediting the process. No time was wasted. As soon as Anderson had the items sorted, a coworker on the delivery team was already making delivery notifications to the appropriate clinics. These items haven been on VA property for less than 15 minutes and are just the first, and smallest, of the dozen or more delivery trucks the receiving team will process this day.
Sustaining this massive material operation requires a team of 110 skilled personnel adept at juggling a multifaceted operation spread across a dozen North Texas locations. The receiving team makes up only five of the 110 personnel and they hand off to a six-person internal delivery team. Other parts of this team are made up of contract experts, purchasing agents, auditors, stock analysts, drivers and administrative personnel.
“In volume and dollars, we are the largest VA supply chain system in the nation,” says James Walters, VA North Texas Health Care System chief supply chain officer. “We are leading the VA in technology and our team is constantly working to provide the latest and best technology to our team, as our Veterans deserve nothing less.”
Whether purchasing 5,000 rolls of paper towels, 50 cases of latex gloves, or a $400,000 4k-resolution 3D microscope, every purchase made by the supply chain team fills a need and has a purpose. The staff generates nearly 2,000 purchase requests every month to maintain a ready inventory of the 8,000 standard consumable items the health care systems needs to function. If the Emergency Department runs short on latex gloves, or the Environmental Services staff runs out of paper towels for patient rooms, patient care is impacted and the receiving team knows very well the important role they play in providing that care.
Receiving and accepting millions of key medical items is just the first step in VA North Texas’ logistical process. Close communication with delivery services, the internal delivery team, property managers, clerks and clinics ensure employees have the tools they need to provide comprehensive health care to patients.
Everyone on our team understands the importance of what we do,” says Darron Thomas, U.S. Navy Veteran and VA North Texas receiving clerk. “And we do whatever it takes to take care of our Veterans.”
Michael Cole is a VA North Texas Health Care System Public Affairs Specialist, a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer and Veteran of many contingency and combat operations around the globe.