- Local pharmacies in South Carolina, shut down during the state's mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Florence, have left patients in need of medications with few options, ABC News 4 reported.
- Governor Henry McMaster's evacuation order forced patients to hospitals, thereby putting additional stress on those hospitals' pharmaceutical inventory reserves.
- Doug Baldwin, director of pharmacy for Trident Medical Center, stressed the need for better future coordination between the state and pharmacies so critical medications can be filled ahead of evacuations.
Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina coast days ago, but the impact of several feet of rain that caused massive flooding and loss of life continues. Many factories, distribution centers, farm operations and transportation providers were damaged. This was compounded by the loss of local labor, as those families impacted by the storm try to get their personal lives in order. In many areas, commerce is at a standstill.
The areas of the supply chain those closer to essential human needs feel more immediate impact. Most supermarket store shelves are stripped bare during the run-up to the storm. The same can be said for gas stations, which often get tapped out when people are urged to evacuate. The up to 2 million residents in the path of Hurricane Florence drained fuel in that area. Replenishment takes time.
But what of the unique needs of pharmacies? Their ubiquitous locations may provide a false sense of security for patients, but the problem of restricted supply gets exacerbated during times of crisis, creating personal anxiety, not to mention heightened risk which threatens peoples' medical needs. Pharmacies, like many large retailers, utilize sophisticated inventory control techniques that minimize store inventories and cater to local customers, some of which might have evacuated and left their drugs behind.
In addition, many controlled substances provide for limited quantities to be dispensed to patients, creating urgency and fulfillment uncertainty for patients. Many medical benefit plans require that patients use central pharmacies for their long-term prescriptions. Large storms always impact regional and local logistics, creating shortages.
Supply chain risk mitigation plans often cover natural events such as storms, earthquakes, fires, floods and other happenings in Mother Nature’s arsenal. But the recent severity of events has changed the scale of what would constitute a normal break in the continuity of supply.
For the supply chain manager, this storm has ramifications in all levels of the supply chain, most of whom had no idea their supply chain had a link or two in North Carolina. While most companies have some level of resilience plans for normal or even advanced risk, the ever increasing size of natural disasters can overcome those plans in a heartbeat.