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COVID-19: Port of LA’s Seroka outlines new challenges

Los Angeles logistics chief fast-tracking medical supplies distribution and production

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka was recently appointed Los Angeles chief logistics officer by Mayor Eric Garcetti, says expediting medical supplies “is at a crisis stage.”

While maintaining his duties as the Port’s executive director, Seroka now also leads a team expediting deliveries of critical health care and emergency supplies into the hands of those who need them most.

In an interview with AJOT, Seroka outlined the responsibilities and challenges he and his staff are facing: 

He is working to continue the fast importation of medical supplies and goods through “our airport and seaport in Los Angeles.”

He explains: “We are looking to source new supplies from manufacturers including N95 respirator masks and surgical masks, gowns, face protection, ventilators, and equipment used for intravenous drips. We are coordinating these efforts with the Hospital Association of Southern California, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, City of Los Angeles public health officials and local hospitals. We are seeking to understand the needs, not compete for sourcing with the goal of aggregating demand.”

His office is supporting new manufacturing and distributing of face shields, masks, gowns and personal protective equipment (PPE): “We are working with the California Manufacturing and Technology Association to find companies to either produce these products or retool to produce these products.”

Seroka is working with “the Harbor Trucking Association and its president, Weston LaBar, as well as with Alex Cherin, executive director of the California Trucking Association. We are staying close to the trucking industry and have periodic conference calls.” 

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka

His office is “relying on the support of eighteen dedicated volunteers from City of Los Angeles departments who are helping to coordinate these efforts.”

Working through the Port of Los Angeles, “we have been able to obtain additional supplies of masks and sanitary equipment that we have been distributing to harbor truck drivers as well as to the Teamsters Union members. While the Teamsters represent only a small percentage of the harbor drivers, they represent workers in a number of different fields and have been supporting our outreach efforts.”

As part of the selection process, “we have had to discard 95% of the leads and offers we receive, because they do not perform or match up to requirements.” In some cases, Seroka is seeing “counterfeit producers and a number of opportunists trying to take advantage of the situation. The result is that we have identified the 5% of those contacting us who can provide good faith sourcing of product… we have benefitted from the personnel and experience of the (Los Angeles) Emergency Management Department.”

It is important to note that “while we are focusing on frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and EMTs, we also need to be supplying janitors and other hospital workers. In addition, there are a number of other workers who also play a critical role. They include construction workers, food service workers, bank employees, truck drivers and others.” 

The Los Angeles Times reported that “a healthcare union was the latest victim of scammers, after it believed it had found a source of 39 million N95 masks, only to later discover there was a problem with the seller. The masks never materialized, sparking a federal investigation. Medical professionals across the state have said they have been inundated with false offers, and lack the capacity and expertise to sort through them.” The city plans on using its buying power to negotiate for buyers and is searching for new suppliers that have switched to producing medical gear in recent days.

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis

WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT

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