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Machines improve supply chain

Chesapeake firefighters have been using new vending machines since December for bandages, gauze, electrode defibrillation pads and other medical supplies.

The first three machines — each accompanied with 18 locker spaces with additional medical supplies — were installed at Fire Station 12 in Western Branch, Station 5 in Great Bridge and Station 4 in Greenbrier, according to Capt. Greg Noel.

Noel worked on a three-year project to better track money spent on medical supplies and delays in the supply chain using the UCapIT supply dispensing system. The system cost $85,000, and Chesapeake is the first fire department in Hampton Roads to adopt it.

Before this Controlled Access Pharmacy system was introduced, crews from all 15 fire stations had to get their medical supplies from Station 5 in Great Bridge. Noel received droves of emails for supply orders, many of which suffered from travel and logistical delays.

“I would get a slew of emails every day,” he said in a phone interview.

The delays of that “eyeball inventory” method have been greatly reduced since UCapIT was introduced, Noel said.

“It increases the ability for them to have the materials they need when they need them,” he said.

UCapIT gives personnel the ability to access and restock these machines day or night using PINs, card readers or whichever ID protocol is in effect. All withdrawals are catalogued, time-stamped and regulated online, according to the website for the system.

Noel is able to track usage patterns and order requests anywhere using his laptop. He can limit access of certain supplies to specific individuals or agencies and adjust inventories based on what’s being used and what’s past its expiration date.

Chesapeake Regional Healthcare will also receive a machine filled with equipment that crews routinely use while at the hospital.

The hospital’s machine will also be made available for other EMS agencies to restock their supplies, Noel said, and more machines are being considered for stations throughout Chesapeake.