Fresenius Medical Care provides treatment for more than 348,000 dialysis patients. In doing so, we try to ensure a future worth living for many people around the world who suffer from chronic kidney disease. The health and safety of our patients and our employees remains our top priority. This is also true in the face of the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the leading provider of dialysis products and services, Fresenius Medical Care benefits from decades of experience, innovative technology and dedicated staff. These help us in taking responsibility for renal patients worldwide, who have become even more vulnerable due to the spread of the coronavirus.
We take this responsibility seriously at all times, naturally also during this crisis. With numerous initiatives across the globe and thanks to its extraordinary employees, Fresenius Medical Care has tackled the threats presented by the COVID-19 pandemic by deploying different forms of support in the most heavily impacted areas.
Making life-saving equipment available where urgently needed
In Wuhan in China, from where the pandemic began its global spread, Fresenius Medical Care swiftly supplied local hospitals with donations of acute care devices and other materials to help maintain the healthcare infrastructure. We also delivered more than 100,000 face masks and other personal protection equipment to our employees in China.
Qun Xiao was one of the first nurses to treat infected dialysis patients. She recalls that despite her initial anxiety about her, this was soon forgotten when she met her patients.
Their faces simply lit up when they saw us. We were their hope.
In addition, the Company donated acute dialysis machines for use in critical care in the province of Hubei. We also provided hospitals with hemodialysis machines to enable them to continue offering dialysis treatment. A shipment of Novalung consoles for ECMO therapy to Wuhan was airfreighted from Frankfurt to Beijing, and then transported to Wuhan aboard a special charter flight.
Once the virus reached Europe, Italy was especially hard hit. Here again, Fresenius Medical Care employees stood together and proved their commitment to defeating this pandemic. The local team rallied together to support a major hospital in Milan with an emergency COVID-19 intensive care unit equipped with ten of our multiFiltrate PRO machines for acute dialysis.
As the time-lapse video below shows, the intensive care unit in Milan was set up within the space of just one week. By working together closely, our colleagues were able to make a big difference, not just to the lives of our chronically ill kidney patients, but also to other patients affected directly by COVID-19.
In Poland, our colleagues supported the country’s health care system by offering mobile dialysis machines to public hospitals that had been converted into single-profile centers for COVID-19 patients. This meant that dialysis patients were able to receive their life-saving therapy in a specialized infection ward in the safest way possible for them and their environment.
Fresenius Medical Care flew 200 acute dialysis machines from Asia to Europe to distribute them wherever they are needed most. Devices for acute therapy are also supposed to be delivered to Latin America and North America.
In North America, we made 150 additional dialysis machines available to U.S. hospitals for the emergency treatment of COVID-19 patients under our newly established National Intensive Renal Care Reserve. This enables us to send dialysis machines to hospitals at short notice.
As an industry leader in kidney care, we are actively stepping up to our duty to tackle this global pandemic. We will benefit from shared knowledge across our regions, learn valuable lessons, become even better at what we do.
Expanding production to meet growing worldwide demand
We are also making every effort to maintain or expand the production and distribution of our products. Due to COVID-19, demand has increased across all product groups, but especially for acute dialysis products – in some cases by more than 100%.
In Italy, for example, our technical operations team installed as many acute dialysis machines in March 2020 as it normally would in one year. We also set up more than 40 portable reverse osmosis units for dialysis wards in hospitals that had been isolated to take care of COVID-19 patients.
Our manufacturing and supply teams in the U.S. have also significantly grown their manufacturing capacity. Our Concord plant is helping to prepare for the expected rise in acute COVID-19 cases by shipping hemodialysis machines to isolation units that have been created to handle an expected increase in the COVID-19 patient load. We produce these units, which are intended for emergency medical care, in addition to the usual volume of life sustaining machines.
We have also responded to an increase in the number of hospitalized patients requiring renal replacement therapy in the U.S. This includes sending in-center dialysis, home dialysis and continuous renal replacement equipment and supplies to the hardest hit hospitals, and working with healthcare professionals to help them use the equipment efficiently to care for more patients.
Our EMEA plants also aim to maximize their capacity of acute products and have set themselves the ambitious goal of increasing their production output by up to 200%.
About acute dialysis
Acute therapies are primarily required for the treatment of acute kidney failure in critically ill patients at intensive care units. Continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) cleans the blood with the help of special solutions and filters, mimicking the kidney’s natural functions and maintaining body fluid levels at a relatively constant level.
Joining forces in times of crisis
In the U.S., we have partnered with other dialysis providers to create a nationwide contingency plan for the treatment of dialysis patients infected with COVID-19. This also relieves the burden on hospitals .
We also work closely together with health care systems and local governments to implement solutions and thus offer the best possible patient care. To help address shortages of continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) products during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization to Fresenius Medical Care for emergency use of the multiFiltrate PRO System and multiBic/multiPlus Solutions. The equipment has been authorized to provide CRRT to treat patients in an acute care environment during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In addition to the multiBic dialysate solutions being delivered to hospitals in the New York metropolitan area in May, the company also expects the first shipments of the multiFiltrate Pro System to arrive in the U.S. within the following weeks.
Using our technology and know-how to treat COVID-19 patients
In addition to acute dialysis, we are seeing significantly higher demand for Novalung ECMO consoles and Novalung patient kits produced by Xenios AG, a subsidiary of Fresenius Medical Care.
Xenios’ ECMO devices are already used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in many European countries, especially the most seriously affected ones like Italy, Spain and France. But the life-saving devices are also urgently needed outside of Europe. Wuhan, China’s most affected region, received a delivery back at the end of February.
We have put numerous measures in place to maximize our capacity to manufacture both ECMO devices and patient kits.
About ECMO (ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) therapy
Xenios AG, a subsidiary of Fresenius Medical Care, provides ECMO consoles that are used to treat patients who develop severe pneumonia and ARDS with lung failure, which can be the result of a coronavirus infection. Put simply, Xenios’ ECMO therapy bypasses the function of the lungs, freeing the patient’s blood from carbon dioxide outside the body and enriching it with oxygen. This gives the lungs sufficient time to heal.
The extraordinary commitment of our employees
We are fortunate to have so many dedicated employees who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to try to ensure the health and safety of our patients worldwide. Staff in the U.S., Italy, China, and many other countries have volunteered their services to support severely impacted regions and hospitals.
In the U.S., additional dialysis nurses and other caregivers were needed to address the increased number of COVID-19 patients with acute kidney injury. In China, Fresenius Medical Care engineers and nurses have volunteered to help out at local hospitals in Wuhan, working alongside local dialysis nurses. Supply chain colleagues have risen to the challenge of satisfying the increase in demand while complying with extensive safety measures.
At first, I was worried about getting infected. But when I saw patients getting help and being cared for, I felt that it was all worth it.
Under these difficult circumstances, Fresenius Medical Care’s employees around the world provide the foundation for our company’s success. Together, they not only give their best to ensure that our patients stay safe through this crisis, they also share their motivation and try to keep each other going.
This video was made by the team in Valencia, Spain, one of the countries most heavily affected by the pandemic. It is a heart-warming message of encouragement to all Fresenius Medical Care colleagues and a ray of hope in difficult times.
Despite our fears, I have never, and I say this emphatically, never in my entire professional life been so proud of my team as I am now. It’s in these difficult moments when commitment, professionalism and vocation come to the fore, when you know people – your people. ‘Thank you all for taking care of us, because we have to come back here again and again to live, and you have not left us alone’, a patient said to me just a few days ago.