Everyone in Quebec’s health system – including suppliers – can help heal our ailing system

by Nicole St.-Germain, Regional Director, Hospitals, Medline Canada, Corporation

We knew before 2020 that the Quebec healthcare system was in a fragile state, coping but straining.

The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, have stretched the system far more and it is breaking. It now seems likely the pandemic will continue to impact our health system for months or years to come, but we need to also be able to address all the other health needs of Quebecers, including the backlog created over the past two years.

It is a daunting task. Even if COVID vanished tomorrow our health system would be faced with a large hole from which to crawl out. In a critical situation such as this, the system must look at every means possible to do things better. Everyone involved must do their part, including suppliers, such as the company I work for, Medline Canada.

At first glance, this might seem an unusual thing to say. Isn’t the job of suppliers, after all, to simply make sure the products our hospitals and clinics need arrive on time and are of high quality and good price? Certainly, that is job number one but we can, and must, do more.

Here is one example. Hospitals are busy and complicated places requiring huge numbers of different pieces of equipment and supplies. For example, a knee replacement surgery needs many different items that all must be top quality, sterile and ready to go, including everything needed in case of many possible unexpected complications or emergencies that could develop.

For surgeries and other procedures to happen, it is crucial that operating rooms have all that is needed when they need it. In too many cases, large amounts of time are spent by many people chasing down items from different locations and getting them where they are needed at the right time.

Suppliers can make this whole process more efficient. Medline understands the importance of supply chain efficiencies within the hospital and we share our expertise with hospitals to review their pre-and post-operative processes. This can generate significant cost savings and, most importantly in today’s circumstances, more time to provide patient care.  It is a sophisticated process, but it pays dividends.

A recent study of this system at an Ontario hospital showed it saved an average of five minutes per procedure. That might not sound like a lot, but over a year such small savings add up to potentially several thousands of hours to reinvest in value-added work, the equivalent of the total annual workload of at least two full-time employees. Or it could mean performing a few extra procedures per day to help fight that huge backlog. Every bit helps.

This is but one example of how Quebec’s health system must face the current crisis by utilizing every possible resource and innovation. The Medline system might save five minutes for each procedure, while something else might save two or 10. Other ideas might provide ways to better utilize other precious resources.

The point is we can’t afford to leave any stone unturned in looking for ways to dig ourselves out of the healthcare backlog created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The popular saying two years ago when the pandemic started was, “We’re all in this together.” It goes doubly for getting us out of it. Everyone, including suppliers and other healthcare related partners, can and must play a helping role.



John Quinn
Medline Canada
Tel: 416-525-9123