By Heidi Bryce and Carly McClen, Supporter Development Team
The Supporter Development team started the new year with a visit to the warehouse facility where most of MND Victoria's equipment is managed. It is a critical part of our services and makes an enormous difference to the lives of people with MND across the State.
We met Josh Farmer, Account Manager – Assistive Technologies, along with his team at the equipment warehouse. They gave us an in depth, hands on experience of their role in the management of MND Victoria's assistive equipment. The facility also manages equipment for other organisations.
We were immediately struck by the sheer size of the warehouse and the breadth of essential equipment available to our clients as they need it. There is rapid turnaround of the equipment managed at the warehouse—it can be requested at any time by an Allied Health Professional via MND Victoria’s website to our Equipment Service team at Head Office who then put the dispatch request into the warehouse. It is then dispatched as quickly as possible to the person with MND at no cost to the client—if we have the equipment available in the warehouse, it can take as little as a week for equipment to be received by the client after we receive a request.
Our Equipment Service enables people with MND to remain mobile for as long as possible and live safely in their home. Melissa, whose father died from MND says, "We were able to keep Dad home for his entire battle with the aids and equipment the organisation supplied us."
It is a huge operation, with over 3300 items of equipment currently on loan to people with MND. At any point in time, there may be 800+ equipment items flowing through the 4,200m2 facility—either recently returned from a client and being cleaned, serviced or repaired, or in stock and ready to be dispatched to new clients as requested.
Josh shared, "MND Vic have certainly bulked up and diversified their equipment fleet in recent times, and this has correlated with elevated demand to get the new assets out to clients throughout the State. We have seen a 19% increase in asset growth in 2018 compared to last year. Equipment delivery and collection requests have also increased by 22% this year."
He said the warehouse team is, "Proud to support all of those in need ... it is extremely rewarding for our team who will often go above and beyond to overcome the ever-changing circumstances that arise every day."
Those affected by motor neurone disease may require multiple assistive technology items across eight categories: Bathroom, Bedroom, Communication, Daily aids, Furniture, Mobility, Transfer and Pressure care.
Josh explained that the Equipment Service at MND Victoria has direct access to the location and status of all tracked assets (both in-stock at the warehouse and those on location with clients). When an equipment request is logged through the system, the information is automatically loaded into a ‘job’ and the warehouse team is notified to ensure swift action.
For a delivery or re-issue request, a ‘picking list’ is generated digitally so the warehouse team can select the exact items requested by the client's Allied Health Professional. Each item is inspected prior to dispatch, and the client or their carer is contacted to arrange a convenient delivery time and phoned again just prior to delivery to confirm.
The number and type of equipment items needed by our clients varies greatly, depending on disease length, type and progression. One client currently using our Equipment Service has 18 individual pieces of equipment. The cost to purchase this equipment, if MND Victoria's critical services were not available, would be in excess of $35,000. A past MND carer wrote, "We could not have managed that ghastly disease on our own—physically, emotionally or financially."
As people with MND often require multiple equipment items at any point in time and often urgently, equipment needs to be delivered in as short a time frame as possible. If a client was to order, and pay for a new piece of equipment themselves, the wait time would sometimes be very long. This is why our equipment is readily available and a reasonable amount of stock is kept in the warehouse so that we can efficiently process over 1300 requests from Allied Health Professionals for the 2000+ items of equipment we dispatch each year.
As Jo Whitehouse, Manager Support Services explains, "Nearly 60% of requests for equipment we receive are urgent."
It is due to the generosity of our donors and the dedication of our supporters that we have been able to build up our Equipment Service to the high standard it is today with enough assets to provide a responsive service to people with MND, a service which saves our clients thousands of dollars each year.