In the nick of time

During a pandemic, 5 days could make a difference between life or death. Here’s how medical equipment supplier HZHM Group and DBS rushed to save lives.

When the novel coronavirus first broke out in China in late January, countless people waited to be tested as the fear of contracting the disease spread through the nation like wildfire.

In the early stages of the pandemic, when scientists were still grappling with how to best diagnose the disease, X-ray imaging systems were the first means of identifying pneumonia, the most common and obvious symptom of Covid-19 infection.

Faced with the need to procure three additional systems to deal with the sudden influx of patients, the Shandong Thoracic Hospital approached its medical supplier, Beijing-based HZHM Group, for assistance.

But as companies like HZHM Group rarely have spare units of such high-end equipment lying around their warehouses, the only solution was to procure new machines from the manufacturers.

The problem? Demand for the machines was severely outstripping supply.

“Because of the pandemic, every hospital in the country was scrambling to get such systems,” explains Mr Cai Zhang Xing of HZHM Group.

“Given that the pandemic broke out during the holiday period, many factories were not operating at full capacity. Also, as stock was extremely limited, manufacturers had to adopt a first-come, first-served basis, and this meant that we had to race against time to find the funds required to buy the machines.”

HZHM Group contacted Joanna Zhang, their relationship manager from DBS China at 11pm on 12 February.

Joanna knew that she was in for a challenge.

“I knew that this request was going to be exceedingly difficult to fulfill because there were a number of obstacles. Firstly, the client’s credit limit needed to be increased. Secondly, the client already had a high credit limit so getting approval to increase it even further would be tough. Lastly, the client needed the funds within three days!” she quips.

But having understood the stakes involved and how the funds would directly help the nation’s fight against the pandemic, Joanna and her colleagues pulled out all the stops to make the loan happen.

“I knew that this was a national crisis and things needed to be done quickly. Our client could lose the chance to buy the equipment they needed if they were late for even a second.”
- Ms Joanna Zhang, relationship manager at DBS China

As most of the bank’s employees were working from home because of the pandemic, communicating with her colleagues from other departments had to be done remotely. What transpired the next day was a deluge of work emails and her phone ringing off the hook.

Barely a breather, but it does not matter

Joanna barely had time to take a breather throughout the day. In fact, she only took her eyes off the computer screen at 11.30pm when the initial loan approval was granted.

She recalls that some of her colleagues even had to skip their dinners in order to participate in an urgent conference call regarding the matter.

Two days after receiving the client request, Joanna and her colleague finally heaved a sigh of relief as the bank issued the final approval for the loan.

The approval process for such a complex application would usually require seven working days.

“This would not have been possible if not for the concerted efforts of everyone in the bank. Processing such a request requires immense coordination from multiple departments.”
- Ms Joanna Zhang, relationship manager at DBS China

“Even after the loan was granted, the loan approval officers from the branch and head offices were still hard at work. They only left the office at 11.30pm!”

Thankfully, all this hard work was not in vain. HZHM Group successfully purchased the three X-ray imaging systems before promptly sending them to the hospital in Shandong.

Mr Cai admits that he was surprised at the outcome.

“To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes regarding the bank loan,” he says.

“I knew that given the situation at hand, it would be a tall ask for the bank to grant such a considerable amount within such a short time. But DBS delivered. Our company is really grateful for all the help rendered during this trying period.”