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ONE YEAR LATER: CEOs of Nebraska Medicine, CHI Health and Methodist discuss COVID impact

Posted at 6:23 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 19:23:53-05

OMAHA, Neb. — Metro hospital systems including Methodist, CHI Health and Nebraska Medicine have had to work together during this pandemic. One year after the first confirmed patient was hospitalized, we sat down virtually with the CEOs of each hospital system to discuss how they managed to pull through peak hospitalization rates and what they believe is the future of healthcare.

Omaha's largest health systems played a vital roll in keeping COVID-19 under control in Douglas County and the state. In late March, they saw the horrors of hospitals reaching capacity in places like New York and knew they had to prepare for the worst.

"When you could see every night the reports out of New York City and what was going on there, the planning really went into high gear as to how are we going to create capacity if this comes to our doorstep," Methodist President and CEO Steve Goeser said.

It was from that moment on that collaboration between all three major hospital systems kicked into high gear.

"The collaboration between the hospitals...there was no competition anymore between these hospitals. It was all, let's work together and let's get this figured out," said Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour.

Plans were put in place to transfer patients from one hospital system to another if they reached capacity. In November, during peak hospitalizations, some were close to capacity.

"It was very close to having to go into crisis standards of care," said Nebraska Medicine CEO Dr. James Linder.

Then came the issue of staffing shortages. Nurses were in short supply and doctors were working extra long hours.

"I think we probably all could speak to the fact that throughout this last handful of months, we've all been worried about staffing almost every day," said CHI Health CEO Dr. Cliff Robertson.

The health system leaders said November was a particularly hard month on the staff.

"We thought we saw a surge in May and little did we know what was coming in October and November," said Goeser.

"I think the staff deserve the greatest level of appreciation possible in how they moved into other roles and took on additional responsibilities," said Dr. Linder.

The CEO's said staff mental well-being is now an absolute priority and will continue being a priority in the future. They also believe telehealth is the future of medicine. Before the pandemic, less than one percent of individuals used telehealth services nationwide. Now, that number is 40-70% percent in some places.

They said the collaboration between all three health systems will continue into the future so Nebraska can tackle other serious health issues even after the pandemic.