A Crisis Like No Other

Author: Lee Domanico, CEO

Being a hospital CEO for since 1982, I thought I had encountered the full range of crises that could occur in hospitals, whether from difficult patient care issues, a financial crisis, or how to best manage essential hospital and patient care operations due to a natural disaster.

Nothing prepared me, however, for the impact that this coronavirus has had and will continue to have on almost every aspect of our lives. We’ve pulled back from so many of our normal activities; we’ve willingly quarantined and distanced ourselves from others, even loved ones; and we’ve watched the economy slow almost to a halt. Now beyond what most of us are able to comprehend, we are mourning more than 100,000 Americans who have been lost to the virus in just four months.

Anyone who follows the news is aware of the impact this pandemic has had on our nation’s hospitals and all the frontline workers and first responders who are playing such a major part in helping the country get through this. We see overwhelmed ERs, especially in areas where outbreaks are the largest; we see staff struggling to provide lifesaving care to a relentless volume of patients, all while putting their own health at risk. We hear about gaps and shortages in supplies that doctors and nurses depend on to treat patients and protect themselves. The enormity of the need and the speed at which it happened was stunning.

At MarinHealth Medical Center, we have been fortunate not to have seen the onslaught of cases that many other communities have, thanks in large part to the members of our community who have been following the shelter-in-place order so diligently. But we are ready and prepared! Anticipating that the pandemic could potentially overwhelm our operations, early in March we began deploying specialized crisis response procedures to help prepare.

Let me recognize first how amazingly our healthcare team has responded to the unique challenges they have faced. They’ve logged countless hours planning and determining how best to respond as the situation evolved in real time. They’ve worked hard to rearrange and reprioritize operations to accommodate the evolving special crisis-related needs of patients and staff. They’ve spent incredibly long days treating acutely ill patients, constantly monitoring critical resources such as number of available beds, ventilators, or personal protective equipment. In collaboration with all departments, they’ve developed strict safety precautions that are now being followed in every area of the MarinHealth enterprise.

Other good news to note: nearly all of COVID-19 patients at MarinHealth Medical Center have been successfully discharged, and we have largely avoided COVID-19 infections in our staff.

I want to talk about another crisis that has been unfolding here and at many other hospitals locally and nationally. The pandemic has resulted in a severe loss of revenue due to the postponement of non-emergent and elective procedures during this time. Safety precautions and shelter-in-place mandates caused a necessary but critical reduction in our “typical business” and this will result in a significant loss in net revenues this fiscal year. We are negotiating reimbursement for some of the costs we have incurred and will continue to closely monitor our labor and operational needs. The pandemic will have a big impact on us financially, but with the amazing team we have and with the support of our community, I am confident that we will weather this storm as we have all the others.

A hospital should be a safe place to go when people need help. But the pandemic has instigated concern in the public about the safety of their healthcare resources. Thanks to the extraordinary precautions we have been taking here at MarinHealth Medical Center to ensure patient and visitor safety, the community should feel comfortable once again to seek help for care of all kinds. Hospital routines may never be quite the same as they were before the pandemic, but due to the creative thinking that a crisis typically brings, we will be slowly and cautiously establishing our “new normal.” For example, we have greatly enhanced sanitation procedures, are now requiring all staff, visitors and patients (in some cases) to wear masks, restricting visitors, offering screening and testing to employees, and testing all patients who come to the ER. Our providers also use video appointments with patients via phone, tablet, or computer whenever possible.

The pandemic has provided MarinHealth Medical Center with challenges unlike any we have faced before. Many we are still working to overcome. Given the dedicated, professional and heartfelt responses from everyone involved, I truly believe when we look back at this unique period in our history, we will do so with a great deal of pride.