Cincinnati Business Courier | Cincinnati’s Road to Recovery: The first of a three-part virtual discussion series
Featured in the Cincinnati Business Courier
In the first of a three-part virtual discussion series titled Cincinnati’s Road to Recovery, Jamie Smith, Business Courier market president and publisher, on Tuesday July 28 questioned three community and business leaders about their respective organizations’ reactions to the Covid-19 crisis. The Courier plans to follow up with Road to Recovery Q&A sessions in the fall and winter, with the next session being held on September 15, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.
Responding to Smith’s questions in the discussion were: Mark Clement, president and CEO of TriHealth; Renee Mahaffey Harris, president and CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap and Terry Horan, president and CEO of Horan, a health and wealth benefits management firm.
The discussion focused on the state of the region as it existed on July 28, four to five months into the spread of the corona virus pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown, coupled with a period of nationwide civil unrest. The premise of these discussions is that community leaders and the region as a whole can benefit when information and insights are shared. Smith also invited webinar participants to submit questions on relevant topics.
The following is a synopsis of their discussion, which lasted a little more than an hour.
INITIAL RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC
Smith first asked the three leaders how their organizations responded when the coronavirus pandemic emerged in this region.
Clement led off the responses by noting that TriHealth provides the largest corporate health care function in this region with six hospitals and 13 ambulatory campuses and provides student health care for Xavier University and Miami University. He said that in January, TriHealth as an organization recognized the novel coronavirus as “a serious threat not just to Wuhan, China, but to the entire world.” In January, TriHealth infectious disease specialists examined and treated two international students at Miami who showed symptoms but turned out to test negative for the virus. Also, early that month TriHealth formed a Covid-19 work group to develop strategies for combating the virus and in February mobilized a virus command center that first met daily and is still meeting three times a week.
He said that when the virus first began to present itself in the region in March, TriHealth “instituted a number of measures to protect our team members and most importantly to protect our patients.” The measures included screening stations in public areas at all the hospitals and a universal face mask protocol.
Clement said TriHealth anticipated and prepared for “an overwhelming surge in demand” because of the virus, including a 300% increase in ICU admissions. But as a result of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s measures to mitigate the effects of the disease, TriHealth did not experience a surge on the scope anticipated. After DeWine ordered all hospitals in the state to end most elective procedures, TriHealth began regular virtual meetings to keep affected physicians and staff apprised of state virus regulations and hospital policy. Also, TriHealth reached out to the region’s other hospital systems – UC Health, Mercy Health, Christ, St. Elizabeth Health Care – to collaborate on developing coordinated strategies for dealing with Covid-19 cases and all other community health care needs. He said this coordination and collaboration remains ongoing.
Horan said one of his firm’s first responses as the pandemic emerged was to adapt and acquire technology – hardware and software – to ensure good communication with all the firm’s associates, many working remotely. He added that the firm already had in place “daily huddles” among associates and that virtual huddles proved highly valuable as working from home became the norm. He said the firm also began a “very aggressive outreach to our clients so that they knew they could call us at any time and we would reach out to them.”
Horan cited a silver lining amid this crisis in that it provided an opportunity to establish improved and more efficient methods of communication with the firm’s associates and clients.
Mahaffey Harris said as the virus began to emerge in this region it became evident that, as a trusted source of health information, one of the Center for Closing the Health Gap’s principal functions would be to get information about dealing with the virus to the community, especially the region’s marginalized populations, who were experiencing alarming and disproportionate numbers of Covid-19 cases. She said she reached out to leaders of many of the organizations that serve the Black community, including the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP, the Cincinnati Medical Association, and to Cincinnati City Council member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney.
One result was creation in March of a website, https://covid19communityresources.com/,devoted to accurate, useful information about the virus that includes links to medical and health resources and information and videos, and tips on such things as applying for unemployment compensation and finding food sources. She said the site is interactive and invites people and organizations with useful information to share it.
Mahaffey Harris said the center also now conducts virtual town halls – there have been 15 to date – to offer virus and other health-related information from a variety of experts.
She noted that the Center for Closing the Health Gap was created as a collaboration among all the region’s major health systems to address the needs of underserved communities.
She said face-to-face communication is a vital part of that but now that such communication is difficult if not impossible, the center is doing such things as collaborating with the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority to provide three phone lines for people in public housing without internet to access information about Covid-19 and other health issues.