Just Doing Our Part: UP Donates 6,600 N95 Masks to Nebraska Medical Center

Countries, cities and states are rallying together, fighting COVID-19 as one. In Omaha, Union Pacific is rallying behind one of the nation’s top hospitals.

March 25, 2020

A Nebraska Medicine employee unloads Union Pacific's donation of more than 6,500 N95 masks from a UP vehicle.

During a time of quarantine, cancelled public gatherings and social distancing, it feels like the world is closer than ever. Countries, cities and states are rallying together, fighting COVID-19 as one. In Omaha, Union Pacific is rallying behind one of the nation’s top hospitals.

Mid-morning, March 18, Dr. James Linder, chief executive officer of Nebraska Medicine, contacted area leaders, including Chairman Lance Fritz, stating the hospital was having difficulties fulfilling the necessary supplies to properly serve the community – and the world.

Nebraska Medicine is on the front lines of the COVID-19 war. Housing and monitoring some of the earliest U.S. citizen cases, Nebraska Medicine physicians, researchers, nurses and staff members are working around the clock to improve testing, develop potential vaccines and discover cures for the virus. Nebraska Medicine physician and head of its infectious disease department, Dr. Mark Rupp, successfully cured Ebola patients just a few short years ago.

“When a key organization to curing this virus asks for help, you figure out a way to help,” said Clark Ponthier, senior vice president-Supply Chain. “Even the United States president put out a call to action to support our local hospitals. This is us doing our part.”

Dr. Linder’s request was for N95 masks, hand sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol.

“Of all places, a hospital couldn’t get enough hand sanitizer and were looking into making their own,” Ponthier explained.

Ponthier immediately contacted Pete Newton, assistant vice president-Strategic Sourcing, Supply Chain, to look into UP’s supply of N95 masks.

“We had recently purchased more than enough of these specialty masks for our employees,” Newton said. “The masks are strategically placed throughout the system. After looking through our inventory, we were able to donate 6,600 N95 masks to Nebraska Medicine employees and potential patients.”

Thanks to a concerted employee effort, the extra masks were shipped from nine network warehouses to a Council Bluffs, Iowa, warehouse. The delivery was made to the hospital Saturday, March 21.

“This support from UP is incredibly valuable to our clinical staff working directly with patients and in labs,” Linder said. “Protecting our health care workers is a national priority right now, and UP has shown great leadership and caring at a time when it’s badly needed. On behalf of every patient, physician and employee at Nebraska Medicine, thank you!”

“It speaks volumes to how quickly our employees reacted to this ask,” Newton said. “I’m honored to be part of a team helping our community in this way.”

And what about the hand sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol?

“These were items we could not donate,” Pontier said. “But we were able to get Nebraska Medicine’s Supply Department in contact with our hand sanitizer supplier. The supplier had plenty of product available and is helping the hospital receive 55-gallon drums delivered in the next few days, eliminating their need to make their own hand sanitizer.”