Some Kentucky health providers are experiencing personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost because of a statewide supply chain initiative.

The Kentucky Primary Care Association (KPCA) is providing free access to a PPE warehouse stocked with highly-sought after equipment like gowns, masks and gloves. About 100 KPCA member providers are currently receiving equipment as part of the program, though other clinics are also participating with an “as-needed” basis, chief operating officer Molly Lewis said.

“The providers are necessary and essential to the delivery of healthcare in Kentucky, and it is essential that they have accessibility protective gear so that the healthcare workers feel safe and sound in delivering the help,” Lewis said.

“What we are able to do is get together as an organization to support the access and conserve the administrative burdens that they'd otherwise have to focus attention and time to. We take that load from them and handle it so they can do their primary purpose, which would be to take care of patients.”

All the equipment pays for upfront by KPCA. Other organizations, like Humana, have donated funds towards the program.

The warehouse's stock is managed by Handle Global, an international logistics company. Lewis said many providers in Kentucky ran into problems obtaining equipment once the pandemic hit.

Caps on equipment orders, which existed before coronavirus began spreading, prevented providers from stocking on PPE. Use of Kentucky's disaster relief stockpile was also limited to those who anticipated not having enough PPE in a matter of days.

“Our members wouldn't otherwise have access to the quality we've been able to get,” Lewis said. “We might have larger buying power because Handle serves other organizations across the nation. We will capitalize on that volume and get better pricing.”

The company is able to make larger purchases at better prices than individual hospitals and clinics might have use of by themselves. He said the availability chain continues to be disrupted due to significant increases sought after for PPE, said Kyle Green, founder and president of Handle Global.

“We've been able to assist them to navigate very chaotic waters,” Green said. “We're attempting to bring to that chaos by helping them source items appropriately and provide a full-service solution.”

Raw materials and manufacturing costs have raised, Green said. That volatility makes it difficult for individual clinics to possess buying power, especially smaller providers.

“As of now, they're the group that's kind of the most left out when it comes to gaining access to the right products,” Green said. “The bigger health systems, everybody considers, but you're really exposed when you're meeting someone and also you have no idea when they have been COVID or otherwise. To become protected at that particular moment is crucial.”

Green said he expects the warehouse to carry on operating for a “protracted time period,” despite vaccines hit the industry.