Tough Decisions

Edition: November 2001 - Vol 9 Number 11
Article#: 1102
Author: Repertoire

Supply chain business was put on hold following the Sept. 11 attack. Several companies as well as the Health Industry Distributors Association were forced to postpone annual meetings. But most have rescheduled them.


NCI, the Palm Harbor, FL-based supply chain and health care IT consulting company, postponed its Healthcare Executive Forum, originally scheduled for Sep. 23-25 in Tampa, FL, to Jan. 13-15. At press time, the company was not anticipating any major changes in speakers or topics for the event, which will attract as many as 400 people, according to President Jim Dausch.

''You're pulled in two directions,'' said Dausch. ''You want to keep the country going, but at the same time, you're concerned about the welfare of travelers.''


For the first time in its 99-year history, Alexandria, VA-based HIDA made the tough decision to postpone its annual conference and exposition, which had been scheduled for Oct. 4-6 in San Diego. ''It was a very, very difficult place to be for any organization,'' said Vice President of Communications Wendy Mann. The meeting has been rescheduled for Dec. 5-7.

HIDA President Matt Rowan himself was stuck on the West Coast when the attack occurred, but managed to make it back to Alexandria by the end of the week.

Going into the following week – the week of Sept. 17 – the HIDA staff initially thought it might be OK to proceed with the conference as scheduled. But as they learned more about what was happening at the nation's airports, and talked with exhibitors, distributors and HIDA's board, they began to sense the difficulty of the decision ahead of them.

Some people were reluctant to fly so soon after the 11th, said Mann. Others said that their spouses and significant others didn't want them to board any airplanes. Still others were put off by the sheer inconvenience of flying – the hours-long waits they were hearing about on TV.

Not surprisingly, two schools of thought developed, said Mann. One held that HIDA should go forward as planned; the other felt the organization should put some distance between Sept. 11 and the conference. Although outright cancellation of the event was considered, the idea was quickly shelved, said Mann. ''A lot of people count on HIDA to see others [in the industry],'' she said. ''We felt [to cancel it] would be totally the wrong direction for the organization.''

It was the responsibility of HIDA's executive committee to make the final decision. And it wasn't an easy one.

''There was a risk in going forward, and a risk in postponing,'' said Mann, noting that many trade associations were struggling with the same issue. Knowing that ''we are not going to please all the people all the time,'' HIDA's executive committee finally decided to postpone the meeting until December.

The show will be held at the San Diego Convention Center (as previously planned) on Dec. 5-7. The program will proceed as it was originally mapped out, with some minor changes. For example, former Pittsburgh Steelers great Rocky Blier will NOT be speaking at HIDA 2001, but will appear next year, at HIDA 2002. In addition, HIDA will present a program about emergency preparedness and disaster response as it relates to the medical products distribution industry.


Closely tied to HIDA2001 is PSS, which had planned its national sales meeting to coincide with the event in San Diego. ''The tragedy that our country has recently experienced has deeply affected us both as individuals and as a nation,'' said John Sasen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Jacksonville, FL-based PSS WorldMedical. The company has rescheduled the meeting for Dec. 4-8 in San Diego, again to coincide with HIDA.


McGaw Park, Il-based Allegiance Healthcare postponed its annual sales meeting, which had been scheduled for the week of Sept. 17 in Orlando, FL. ''We didn't feel it was the right time to ask people to leave their families,'' said Allegiance spokeswoman Donna Gaidamak. The meeting will be held in the first quarter of 2002, though dates had not been set at press time.

A Dissenting Voice

Although not addressing his comments to any one organization, Tri-anim President Bob Byers voiced concern about the postponements in the industry. ''In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, our President and Commander in Chief has urged our country to return to its normal routines in a display of national strength and a declaration that we will not be intimidated,'' said Byers two weeks after the Sept. 11 attack.

''Our concern is that many in our industry are allowing fear to outweigh their overall concerns for the country. As a result, their actions will simply add to the demise of the economy.''

Based in Sylmar, CA, Tri-anim is a specialty products supplier for respiratory, anesthesia, critical and EMS.