Protecting our patients: ensuring plasma supplies during COVID-19

22.02.2021
Corporate news
Annual Report 2020

Donating during COVID-19

Faced with these challenges Ashleigh, her team and the wider OPI family, rallied together to ensure the safety of donors and each other, and to continue collecting as much plasma as possible. 

Read the story below

As COVID-19 began to spread across the USA, it became clear to Ashleigh Kline, Donor Centre Director in Raleigh, North Carolina, that she and her team would have to fundamentally change the way in which they worked to ensure the safety of their donors, colleagues and the surrounding community.

“I quickly realised that the pandemic would affect every aspect of our business. Accepting our ‘new normal’ – including delivery and staffing challenges as well as masks, increased sanitation and social distancing – helped me and my team to respond effectively,” explains Ashleigh.

Her story is one of many in which Octapharma employees went the extra mile to secure a safe supply of plasma to ensure that we could continue to deliver our life-saving products to patients around the world.

Operating through the crisis

More than 80% of the plasma used to manufacture Octapharma products is sourced from company-owned donation centres.

The effects of COVID-19 – national lockdowns, business shutdowns, ruptured supplies, and travel and shipping restrictions around the globe – posed significant challenges to our plasma donation centres and made it harder than ever for donors to continue donating plasma.

Ashleigh Kline and her team had to fundamentally change the way they worked in response to COVID-19.

Responding to the challenge and going the extra mile

Faced with these challenges Ashleigh, her team and the wider Octapharma PIasma, Inc. (OPI) family, rallied together to ensure the safety of donors and each other, and to continue collecting as much plasma as possible. Many employees took on additional responsibilities and some even changed roles to meet the needs of the business. Together, they not only recruited new donors to ensure a continuous supply of plasma but were also able to open new donor centres.

The goal, from the start, was to forecast as many obstacles as possible in order to minimise the impact on our business, while being prepared for anything. As Brian Robinson, Divisional Director at OPI, notes, it was an “all hands on deck” approach:

“Having all departments working together with clear objectives, laser focus, effective collaboration, consistent communication and frequent follow-up helped us achieve our goals.”

John Randolph, OPI Regional Director Operations, shares a similar view: “We all had to be prepared to adapt in real time while making the most prudent decisions to help us meet deadlines. Multiple departments within OPI continue to work cohesively to achieve this while remaining organised and focused on all our goals.”

In the face of local, state and federal restrictions, challenges in material supply and disruptions to worldwide logistics and consequent construction delays, opening several new centres was an impressive achievement. “There were times when it felt like an uphill struggle”, remembers John, “but we achieved it by working together with clear objectives, and by sharing our knowledge and skills across teams.”

Elle Wall, Assistant Manager, New Centre Development team, shares a similar view on teamwork. “We work with a great team of colleagues who are goal oriented, who work efficiently and effectively with others, and who do everything they can to meet our goals.”

At a glance

Plasma collection

Plasma can either be sourced from donors through plasmapheresis or recovered from whole blood donations.

Building new teams despite the challenges

For Brian, recruitment and selection was the biggest hurdle to opening the new centres. The pandemic created an aggressive job market in which Octapharma was in competition for top talent with other plasma donation centres, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals affected by COVID-19. Looking back, Brian admits that leadership and teamwork were crucial in these challenging times. “We had existing centres that took on additional responsibilities supporting new centres in recruitment, hiring and training,” says Brian, adding, “This was a perfect example of excellence, going above and beyond to support the wider company.”

As an example, the Raleigh Centre assisted the New Centre Development team in the opening of the Rocky Mount Centre. “By taking ownership of the tasks assigned to us – as if they were for our own centre – we were able to hire and complete training with a portion of the new Rocky Mount staff,” recalls Ashleigh.

Stronger together

Looking back on the year, Ashleigh is sure that some things have clearly changed. “I think this pandemic has increased everyone’s awareness of what is important – life and those that share it with you,” she says, before adding:

“Facing the problems raised by COVID-19 sometimes feels like a never-ending journey. But when it’s over, I’m sure we’ll all be proud, and remember how much easier and better it has been to share the journey with good colleagues and friends. And that’s a good lesson to learn.”

Plasma donation at a glance

Did you know?

  • A donation session takes between 40 and 90 minutes

  • Between 300 and 880ml of plasma is taken for each donation

  • A donor can return after 48 hours for a second (and final) donation in any 7-day period

  • The plasma is tested for viruses like hepatitis, HIV and parvo B19

  • On average, 1,200 plasma donations are needed for prophylactic treatment of a severe haemophilia A adult patient for one year

  • About 130,000 donors donate plasma at our OPI donation centres each month

Keywords

Annual report

COVID-19

Distribution and supply chain