AMSUS Sustaining Members Support Federal Health During the Pandemic

Editor’s note: This information was provided by AMSUS and was edited for consistency and clarity by U.S. Medicine staff. The article was not verified or reported by U.S. Medicine, however.

GAITHERSBURG, MD — As the disruption of healthcare caused by the COVID-19 pandemic began to ripple across the country in March 2020, the officers of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS) and the organization’s sustaining members from industry came together to envision how COVID-19 could impact the federal healthcare system.

With a clear understanding of the responsibility incumbent upon industry to support federal health professionals during this crisis, the group convened to discuss the steps sustaining members could take to ethically support federal customers in meeting their patient care goals as well as how best to respond to collaborative research inquiries and resolve issues for federal accounts throughout the pandemic. In addition, the AMSUS officers and sustaining members brainstormed ways to offer education, clinical and medical information support, and improved access to medicines, devices, and supplies despite while limiting exposure to the coronavirus for all parties.

The leadership team took decisive action to support federal medicine. Sustaining member officers engaged multiple federal health leaders and systems, offering to serve as a conduit for COVID-19-related communications and feedback to and from industry as well as a vehicle for announcements, opportunities for innovation, or requests for industry support to solve a problem.

The group reached out to the VA’s Central Office (VACO), Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM)/Office of Procurement, Acquisition and Logistics (OPAL), and National Acquisition Center (NAC); Indian Health Service (IHS); Bureau of Prisons (BOP); and DoD’s COVID-19 Supply Chain Joint Acquisition Task Force and Defense Health Agency (DHA). The team also contacted the Department of Health and Human Services, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and Office of the Surgeon General (OSG); Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); and other federal agencies to offer the expertise and ethical partnership of sustaining member organizations.

Internally, the AMSUS sustaining member (AMSUS-SM) committees developed plans to engage federal health leaders in discussions of how industry could support VA, DHA, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), IHS, and BOP efforts to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in their medical centers and other facilities and how the organizations could support agency efforts to provide optimal care for their COVID-19 patients.

The overarching goal was to develop a collaborative communication strategy which enabled rapid transmission of information, while facilitating ethical partnership which supported optimal patient care and systemic value.

As a result of the AMSUS-SM efforts, healthcare agencies across the breadth of the U.S. government have received vital support during this difficult period.

  • AMSUS-SM members rapidly responded to a Bureau of Prisons request for critically needed personal protective equipment.
  • Sustaining members facilitated an announcement by the VA’s National Acquisition Center regarding the potential impact of the Defense Production Act, which enabled AMSUS member organizations to proactively evaluate their critical supply lines.
  • The VA PBM requested support in making timely announcements to industry about necessary changes in access to and operation of VAMCs to protect the health and well-being of America’s veterans. In response to the PBM request, the AMSUS-SM VA Committee created a webinar to educate their companies and industry account executives.
  • DHA’s Pharmacy Operations Division (POD) reached out to the AMSUS-SM DoD/DHA Committee on behalf of the COVID-19 Supply Chain JATF to provide industry input and help promulgate a request for information and a commercial solutions offering focused on bolstering domestic industrial capacity by anchoring strategic medicines and supplies.
  • The AMSUS-SM USPHS/Public Health Committee is exploring development of a list of AMSUS-SM corporate member contacts that FEMA and other agencies might reach out to as they address national disaster preparation, response, and recovery to seek voluntary industry participation. FEMA and Americares are also working with the AMSUS-SM USPHS/Public-Health Committee to communicate to industry the need for donations of medical resources to support continued recovery efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastating impact of a hurricane and an earthquake that have been made even more challenging with the pandemic.
  • The AMSUS leadership group also facilitated a number of announcements and requests for the COVID-19 national response effort, including VA/VHA, Supply Chain JATF and DHA’s urgent need for supplies and materials; HHS’ request for information on high priority critical care medicines; DHA, VA, and HHS/USPHS requests to promote plasma donation to support COVID-19 patient care; and the Navajo Nation’s request for nurses to help care for patients at HIS and tribal healthcare facilities in Arizona and New Mexico.
  • FEMA invited AMSUS-SM to help promote their annual Partnership Day with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA) asked the group to promote ethical industry support of VA Nurses at their 40th Annual Meeting in October 2020, and USPHS Commissioned Officers Foundation requested assistance to promote industry support of America’s Health Responders at the USPHS Commissioned Officers Foundation Annual Training and Scientific Symposium.
  • AMSUS-SM VA Committee and officers began work with U.S. Medicine on this supplemental publication which cites examples of how federal health professionals and industry can ethically work together as partners to advance federal and public health goals.

COVID-19 presents a profound threat to public health and our federal health systems, including patients, staff, their families and communities. Federal health professionals continue to work hard to address these unprecedented challenges within their systems. During this public health emergency, many of these professionals including USPHS commissioned officers, DHA medical corps members, and VA staff have also augmented care of patients in their communities.

AMSUS-SM and its member companies support federal health professionals as they seek to minimize transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and optimize care of COVID-19 patients. We look forward to continuing to provide the many benefits of ethical public and private partnership by collaboratively engaging our diverse membership with federal health leaders to serve and support our nation’s critical response to the COVID-19 pandemic.