For healthcare providers, collaboration is an essential part of how we work on a day-to-day basis, but as we have seen throughout the past nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the broader community of caregivers nationwide has stepped up in ways we could never have envisioned.
During the first wave of the virus in March and April, New York hospitals found themselves in the unenviable position of being at the epicenter of the pandemic, scrambling to find additional beds, staff, personal protective equipment, ventilators and other resources to meet surging caseloads. Northwell admitted its first COVID-19 patient to a hospital on March 5. A little over a month later, we saw daily hospitalizations spike to 3,425.
Not knowing how bad the surge would get or how long it would last, staffing was by far our biggest concern. Among the first people I called for help was Intermountain Healthcare President and CEO Dr. Marc Harrison, saying, “We’re inundated here, and I’m wondering if you can help us in any way?” His immediate response was, “Absolutely, what do you need?”
In a matter of days, Intermountain recruited about 50 physicians, nurses and other caregivers to leave their homes and travel more than 2,000 miles to New York, helping to ease some of the mounting pressure and stress on Northwell’s beleaguered clinicians. Given the cyclical nature of the pandemic, the virus soon spread to other regions of the country, including the West. In September, Intermountain hospitals began to see a huge spike in cases, so Northwell enlisted 30 of our caregivers to go to Utah, in groups of 10 for two-week deployments.
The kind of trust and respect that Marc and I have for each other and our respective health systems are at the heart of the reciprocal relationships that are enabling hospitals throughout the country to persevere during this heart-wrenching crisis. Northwell and Intermountain have formalized a strategic alliance to assist each other during future crises, and Northwell is pursuing similar arrangements with other health systems.
The U.S. health system is being challenged like no time in its history, but we will triumph in the end because of the courage and grit of thousands of heroes on the front lines. We owe all of them a great debt of gratitude.