No such thing as competition when it comes to saving lives

Like every healthcare leader across the country, I have spent the last 12 weeks focused 24/7 on caring for my community. As with all of my colleagues, taking care of our patients and working to ensure the safety and well-being of our teams during this global health crisis is our No. 1 priority. 

While each day brings with it new challenges and unexpected roadblocks, I remain grateful to my teammates who are working incredibly hard around the clock. My gratitude extends to my fellow leaders across the region, with whom I have formed a dynamic and highly-effective partnership during this challenging time. 

We realized early on that we faced extraordinary challenges, which would require us to leverage everything at our disposal to combat this pandemic. And so, Ravi Chari, president of HCA Healthcare’s West Florida division; Tommy Inzina, CEO of BayCare Health System; Mike Schultz, president and CEO of the West Florida division of AdventHealthof AdventHealth; and I came together and joined forces to share information, pool our resources, and unite under a common goal — to take care of this community. 

We also believed in our collective strength — combined, we oversee 22 of the regions, 34 major hospitals, including TGH’s Level 1 trauma center. We knew our collaboration could be a game-changer. This crisis was bigger than each of us and our health systems, and we knew we had to work together like never before.

In the days and weeks that followed, we remained in constant contact. We were transparent with each other and shared every aspect of our preparations. We strategized on procuring necessary supplies and discussed how we would accommodate hospital visitors. We spoke with one collective, calm and consistent voice, which reassured our community.

My team and I continue to manage a region-wide data dashboard that we created to synthesize state and national tracking data, to provide a better understanding of what we are facing here in Tampa Bay. My colleagues from the other systems are providing us with real-time bed occupancy and availability twice each day. 

We all are working together to analyze local, regional and national data so that we are collectively prepared to care for people as effectively and safely as possible, and to do so in a manner that keeps our team members safe.  Every day we’re providing updates on patients and collaborating on surge and testing where appropriate. If one hospital needs help, we will collectively be there with support. 

We are operating cohesively, sharing patients where appropriate, providing resources as needed, and leveraging our respective strengths to bolster the entire community. We have transcended competition to truly work together. While things have stabilized a bit for the moment, we still maintain a steady communication that includes an ongoing flow of texts and emails and a weekly phone call.

I realize some will find our collaboration surprising, as many believe we are fierce rivals. I believe there is a time and place for competition and now is not one of those times. While I can’t speak for Ravi, Tommy, or Mike, I can say that our Tampa General community has benefited tremendously from the work we have done and will continue to do together. 

And while our collaboration might seem unique, working together towards a common goal can be productive for all types of organizations. You don’t have to face a global pandemic to come together. There are benefits to forming strategic partnerships:

  • Make participating organizations more productive and improve the overall quality of their services
  • Drive creativity and innovation
  • Generate positive feelings in the community as they see organizations uniting for a common good
  • Leverage and effectively use resources, improving sustainability

There is a lot of talk about operating in a new normal. As we move toward fully understanding what that will entail, I feel confident that this collaboration will be an integral part of the work we continue to do to take care of our neighbors.  


John Couris is president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital.

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