South Jersey man puts off retirement to keep hospitals stocked during COVID-19

EGG HARBOR TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- A South Jersey man who helps keep local hospital stocked with supplies was about to retire, but after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he knew he played an important role.

The boxes on the shelves at the AtlantiCare warehouse in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey are filled with everyday hospital items.

"Tourniquets for orthopedic surgeries, lap sponges," explained logistics supervisor Michael Merlino.

They are items you don't think about until you need them. The need has never been greater because of COVID-19.

"The idea is just to have it here so we don't run into a situation where we're stocked out," said Merlino, who has managed the warehouse for decades.

If you ask him anything about one of the 1,300 supplies he carries, he has an answer.

"Any time we want to look something up, the rest of us have to look it up, but Mike knows the number off the top of his head," said Barbara Young, the assistant VP of the supply chain for AtlantiCare.

Mike had planned on retiring last June, but when the pandemic began, he saw it as his duty to keep the warehouse running.

Before the pandemic, the warehouse was shipping out maybe two trucks every day. As COVID-19 cases surged, so did the need for supplies by about 18 times.

"Things were happening very, very quickly, our products were coming and going at rates unlike anything we've ever seen before," said Young.

Merlino will finally retire in about a week, two days after he turns 65. He says in all these years and through the pandemic, he's just been doing this job.

"He has been unbelievably critical to our success," said Young.

Merlino has been a hero to the people around him.

"We're ordinary people doing ordinary work for extraordinary purposes, said Merlino.
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