How 6 hospital CEOs are responding to the coronavirus

Here is how six hospital CEOs, from large national systems to small community hospitals, are responding to COVID-19:

1. Wayne Meriwether, the CEO of 75-bed Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in Leitchfield, Ky., took to Facebook with a plea for members in his community to "take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously." Mr. Meriwether said based on low-end projections, the region could expect 22,500 infected and 1,125 critically ill patients. Mr. Meriwether said, "We have talented physicians, mid level providers and staff that are prepared to combat the coronavirus head on," but with only six ICU beds, asked the community to "please do your part and give us a fighting chance."

2. CommonSpirit Health, a Chicago-based system with 142 hospitals in 21 states, will suspend patient billing related to the testing and treatment of COVID-19. Of the decision, the health system's CEO Lloyd Dean said, "The last thing our patients should worry about if they experience symptoms characteristic of this coronavirus is the cost of seeking care."

3. Rick Sutton, CEO of Southeast Health in Dothan, Ala., was candid with his community about the limited number of COVID-19 tests the hospital has — only several hundred for patients with the most severe symptoms. "We are not prepared to do things like drive-thru testing because of the limited availability of tests," he told local news station WTVY.

4. David Tam, MD, the new president and CEO of Lewes, Del.-based Beebe Healthcare, joined the organization early to assist efforts to combat the novel coronavirus. Dr. Tam told the Cape Gazette, "I felt a sense of duty as a future leader in the community to begin as soon as possible and continue the momentum of Beebe's great work."

5. Michael Dowling, CEO of New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, told NPR's member station in Boston that while the next couple of months will be challenging for health systems, he is optimistic about defeating COVID-19. "It may be a rough couple of months, and as I've said many times, it's not what happens here that matters, it's how you respond to it. And healthcare organizations are very adaptable and they're very resilient," he told WBUR in an interview March 16.

6. Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic's CEO Gianrico Farrugia, MD, said the organization is prepared to address the outbreak, but acknowledged that staffing and beds could become an issue. "It all depends on how seriously the population takes social distancing," Dr. Farrugia told MedCityBeat. "That is what will determine how many hospital beds we need; and about a tenth of them are ICU beds. And those tend to be ones … yes, we can make more — we have ways of increasing hospital capacity — but that's a limit that's pretty hard to exponentially increase."

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