How to produce medicines in a state of emergency?
Our team in Garbagnate/Italy is currently demonstrating it in an impressive way
His answer comes quickly and without hesitation: „What does your normal working day look like at the moment?” – „At the moment, the word 'normal' doesn't exist.“ Mehmet Cimit is experiencing an extraordinary challenge these days – physically and mentally. As Bayer's site manager in Garbagnate, he is responsible for the production of live-saving and medical need pharmaceutical products as well as more than 370 employees.
They all live and work near Milan in northern Italy, one of the epicenters of the global corona crisis. Italy is one of the most-affected countries worldwide. As of today, Italy has the highest number of corona-related deaths. The country has been living in a state of emergency for weeks, with almost a complete shutdown for all citizens. The only exceptions: the way to supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals – and the way to work. A few days ago, the Italian government tightened the restrictions even further. Now only businesses considered as essential are allowed to continue with their operations. Bayer's production facility in Garbagnate is one of them.
To continuously produce medicines and serve patients, the Garbagnate leadership team spends several hours each day, including the weekends, to monitor the situation and discuss additional measures. “Everyone who doesn't necessarily have to be on site, works from home,“ explains site manager Cimit. „But all those who need to be on site to keep production going are still there.“
Each of them wears protection masks. There are strict rules regarding social distancing, in meetings, in production, in the canteen. The times for breaks are staggered. You are not allowed to sit directly next to each other or opposite each other. The canteen is particularly strictly regulated. It is the only place where you briefly take off the protective masks in order to eat.
Employee safety first is the golden rule in Garbagnate. More than ever, this is the most important task for Mehmet Cimit and his team. They are in close exchange with the leadership team of Bayer Italia, the local authorities and the unions, but of course especially with their people. „Our employees feel the same uncertainty and concerns we all have,“ says Cimit who is managing the site since November 2018. “That’s why we spend a lot of time talking and listening to each other.”
For the employees in Garbagnate, it’s a strange situation. While almost all neighbors and friends stay at home, they go to work every day and leave their families alone. What drives them also in this difficult time, is the purpose of the company and their specific responsibility for patients.
At the Garbagnate site, Bayer produces medicines and health care products for Italy and the global market. The colleagues are responsible for cardiovascular products such as Aspirin Cardio and Xarelto, the antibiotics Ciproxin and Avelox or Kogenate to treat hemophilia. So far, our colleagues have succeeded in maintaining the production even in this challenging situation. While ensuring this, and even more importantly, no employee at Garbagnate has been infected with COVID-19. What a great achievement!
This is also highly appreciated by the global management. “We are very proud of the fantastic work and outstanding dedication of everyone at our Garbagnate site”, says Wolfram Carius, Head of Pharmaceuticals Product Supply.
Mehmet Cimit – a 49-year-old father of two – is grateful to his staff and their families, to the colleagues that persevere on site and to those who support from home. He says: „The situation causes us to be further apart, but it also brings us closer together.”
This solidarity applies to the entire company. The global Product Supply network is supporting each other, for example by sending protection masks to Garbagnate. Bayer is actively working to support the region around Milan in various ways. The entire Bayer team in Italy is sticking together as a community even more closely than ever. In recent days, the Italian colleagues have given this sense of community a name, a hashtag, which they use internally and in the digital media: #sempreinsieme – #alwaystogether.
Of course, the team in Garbagnate hopes to return to normalcy as soon as possible. We have to get through this somehow, is the feeling that everyone shares. But the dedication and commitment of the team will remain, the site manager says: „We have always been very proud of our contribution to the health and well-being of patients. Today that’s more true than ever.“