A Savior Overlooked
By Rice Powell, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Management Board of Fresenius Medical Care
Ventilators aren’t the only medical equipment in short supply during the pandemic: Hospitals and clinics all over the world are in need of acute dialysis machines as well.
The world first got to know COVID-19 as a respiratory disease, and fears of ventilator shortages received global attention. As the world’s leading provider of kidney care products and services, Fresenius Medical Care soon saw another rapidly growing demand: for acute dialysis machines. Reports and studies now confirm what we realized early on – around a third of the patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 develop acute kidney injury.
“If these folks are not dying of lung failure, they’re dying of renal failure,” neurologist Jennifer Frontera, who works for New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told Science. The hospital has treated thousands of COVID-19 patients.
Kidneys are rich in ACE2 receptors, a target the virus uses to enter a cell. If the disease shuts down the patients’ organs, their natural function must be replaced. Kidney failure can be treated with renal replacement therapy, including forms of dialysis in which a machine cleans the patients’ blood and maintains their body fluids at a constant level. When COVID-19 led to an unprecedented surge in acute kidney injury, those dialysis machines, and the solutions, filters, and trained staff required to operate them were soon in short supply – which could lead to the life-and-death calculations intensive care physicians are dreading.
We at Fresenius Medical Care were quick to realize our responsibility to help. Our teams in the U.S., Italy, China, and many other countries rushed to volunteer their knowledge and expertise to help local hospitals in the most heavily impacted regions.
Together, we made hundreds of acute dialysis devices and other supplies available when and where they were needed most – in hospitals from China to Europe, North and Latin America and beyond. In Italy alone, our technical operations team installed as many acute dialysis machines in a month as it usually would in a year. In the U.S., we formed a National Intensive Renal Care Reserve to provide additional dialysis machines for the nation’s hospitals during this unprecedented crisis.
Together, we made hundreds of acute dialysis devices and other supplies available when and where they were needed most – in hospitals from China to Europe, North and Latin America and beyond.
This growing need for our life-saving products came just when restrictions and lockdowns challenged our operations and supply chains. Despite increased safety measures, the teams showed extraordinary commitment. Our plants in the U.S. and Europe maximized their capacity and set themselves the ambitious goal of increasing the production of acute products by up to 200 percent. Meanwhile, colleagues in our supply chain also went out of their way to help – you can imagine the complications one encounters when flying large shipments of medical goods straight into the hotspot of a pandemic.
I am inspired by the selflessness, commitment and determination that our employees worldwide are showing to keep our clinics, production sites and supply chains up and running. They truly put our patients first – and now that the world needs their skills due to COVID-19, they’re there as well. In this global fight against the pandemic, I am proud to be part of this industry-leading team.