D CEO Panel Recap: Health System Executives on Leading Amid a Pandemic

This month, D CEO Healthcare hosted a virtual panel discussing health system executives’ approaches to managing hospitals during the pandemic. The panel included three local executives who recently discussed the unique challenges, efforts to support their employees, and collaboration across networks to serve communities best.

The panelists were Erol Akdamar, President of Medical City Healthcare; Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources; and James Scoggin Jr., CEO of Methodist Health System.

Continue reading about some of the healthcare leaders’ most insightful takeaways below.

Scoggin on the lessons he learned while running a hospital during the pandemic:

“We learned timely, transparent, sincere and earnest communications to our staff. We had to extend a lot of grace in this process, and we had to be extended a lot of grace in this process. It has been really gratifying and impressive to see how the health systems supported each other and collaborated. There was a complete openness about sharing that just shows what a respectful, collegial and supportive relationship we have. Of course, we’re competitors at several levels, but, most importantly, we’re all here to serve the communities and patients that we serve. It’s gratifying to see people rise above all else and just completely support one another.”

Berdan on the additional role of nurses and employees with COVID-19 restrictions:

“Because we had patients in hospitals with restrictions on visitors, I was blown away by the commitment of our staff, nurses and other employees who took on the extra role of being the family support while patients were in the hospital, being the caregiver, playing a support role, and essentially being a person who was responsible for keeping the communication between the family and the patient going forward.

Akdamar on the most difficult decision made over the past six months: 

“One of the most difficult decisions made was voluntarily suspending our elective inpatient and outpatient surgery for the second time. We’ve heard a lot about the capacity and availability of beds and ventilators, but for us we struggled with the availability of the staff to surge up to that level of appropriate care. We took a very conservative position out of an abundance of caution. It was a difficult decision because it impacted our patients and their access to care about already being suspended for some period of time.”

Scoggin on limiting hospital visitors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19:

“One of the toughest decisions that we had to make placing severe restrictions on family members being able to visit with their loved ones. With respect to our COVID patient population, we had to severely cut back on and even limit in some cases no visitors. I think about the importance of family members in the healing process and the support that our patients need, which families can provide. To have to limit that to the degree that we did was one of the decisions that I lost more sleep over than anything else we had to do.

Berdan on caring for the mental health and stress of employees during the pandemic: 

“We offered a variety of support options for employees—childcare, school support resources, hotel rooms and shower facilities. We really concentrated on supporting mental health and well-being, particularly given the prolonged period of time and the stress that people were experiencing both at work and away from work. We have enhanced our virtual employee assistance program, including psychological first aid, counseling, self-care check-ins. They have been so popular that we’re going to continue them even post-pandemic. The most important thing is listening to our employees. Through polling, we were able to identify things we could do and create a dialogue of listening to people’s concerns, questions, and how we could better explain policy changes.”

Akdamar on how Medical City’s national network with hospitals across the country impacted operations during the pandemic:

“Being as large as we are, we saw some benefits of the depth of supply chain when we were trying to access PPE and reagents for some of the testing that was scare. We had access to real-time learning and information with 40 different markets. We utilized the ventilator exchange, in which health systems were able to put inventory into an exchange so communities could borrow equipment to address the COVID surges in their community. I think that’s an example of the synergy and opportunity of taking the size, the scale, and the leverage of HCA and not just benefiting our own hospitals but our peer hospitals, strengthening those relationships, benefiting our communities and benefiting our patients.”

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