A Medical Movement Driven by Committed Uruguayan Business Leaders

Few crises, if any, have ever had the worldwide impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having. As literally every country in the world has braced for the onslaught of negative health care and economic impacts, a tsunami of aid and support is gaining ground against the tidal wave of need.

Many business leaders across the world have been on the front lines of these efforts, showing crisis leadership amid this global pandemic.

Crisis Leadership: Uruguay chief executives step up

In Uruguay, a new YPO chapter with only 27 members launched an initiative to help the government deal with COVID-19 using WhatsApp groups to work remotely to identify three areas where business leaders could provide expertise and support authorities: sourcing in China, importing and fundraising.

For the #NosCuidamosEntreTodos (“we all take care of each other”) campaign, chief executives leveraged the expertise of two of its members — a banker and a media owner — to create a gift-matching campaign. Mauricio Levitin, Director of Peninsula Investment Group and Martin Naor, CEO of Bankingly, are leading the project and calling upon their YPO colleagues to lend a hand. More companies also are getting into the mix — more than 50 companies are supporting the effort.

Rapid results

The group first met on 17 March and in just a few days, they raised USD4 million. The onslaught of support was so great in fact, that their donation platform collapsed as they were doing a television interview. Dollars are being used to address purchasing testing kits, ventilators and protective clothing for doctors and nurses.

“We saw what was happening in China, what was happening in Italy and what was starting to happen in Spain, and we said, ‘we need to do something for our country’,” says Levitin. “One of the issues we always discuss in YPO forums and events is looking for a purpose to unite us and get us together.” This represented a critical opportunity to do just that.

Uruguay’s Undersecretary of Public Health, Jose Luis Satijdan, participated in the initial video meeting and outlined the government’s needs for testing kits, diagnostic tests, clothing and respirators. Donations toward the purchase of these items are being received through payment networks and digital media channels.

“We’re not only changing lives, we’re starting to change the image of the business community in Uruguay.” Mauricio Levitin, Director Peninsula Investment Group 

Match donations

No gift is too small. Naor points to an amazing outpouring of support, including from those who have been personally impacted. One donor who recently lost their own source of income gave a USD30 donation, which, says Naor, is a “huge amount” in Uruguay.

The next phase of the campaign will add a matching component as an incentive to drive even more awareness and contributions.

The team’s process is an excellent example of how quickly things can happen when a dedicated group of people makes a commitment to make it so. An initial acquisition and donation of 1,000 diagnostic tests were confirmed on 25 March — they’re similar to the tests used in Korea’s drive-through system, which had 99% accuracy. An additional 30,000 outpatient diagnostic kits, involving a fingertip puncture similar to an insulin test, arrived from China the last week of March.

Safety garments are also being ordered for medical personnel. “We decided to buy the fabrics in Uruguay and have them manufactured by a group of 40 seamstresses who were unemployed,” says Naor.

Respirators have also been purchased — about 100 will be imported based on an agreement with a Chinese company. The group have supplied 100 monitors for ICU beds as well as 15 ambulances to transport patients from the interior states of Uruguay that don’t have ICU beds to hospitals in the capital city of Montevideo.

Coming together for a critical cause

Business connections, sourcing and logistics expertise of the YPO members and participating companies helped to make the right connections to expedite the process. Truly, where there’s a will — and a YPO member — there’s a way.

“For me it was extremely interesting to see how quickly the solidarity of our fellow colleagues and business owners appeared,” says Naor. “In 48 hours, we moved from 20 people inside YPO to 40 companies and we are up to 100 companies now.”

It’s a movement that could have impact beyond the immediate crisis and pandemic, says Levitin. “We’re not only changing lives, but also, hopefully, starting to change the image of the business community in Uruguay.”

To get more information visit Charidy.

For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org.

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