Dr. CHAD WHELAN

CEO, Banner-University Medicine Tucson

In what ways has your organization had to “pivot” as the short-term impacts of the pandemic took hold? 

In the pandemic’s early phase, we had to dramatically shift course and create new ways of caring for patients and their families. We were also under restrictions that markedly limited a core part of our business – taking care of people with non-COVID-19 needs.  These concurrent events caused enormous financial pressure and stress. Early on, our leadership transitioned into an incident command mode, but realized we needed to learn from our frontline workers about what was working in real time.  We also learned that we needed to communicate, communicate, communicate.  Over the next several months, we transformed our business so we can now safely care for large numbers of COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients. We have transitioned to more virtual visits, altered our visitor policies, changed how we provide in-person care and shifted many team members to work from home. The early pivoting we did has positioned us for continual readiness so that every day, we are forecasting capacity constraints and making adjustments. 

What trends are you experiencing in your own industry, across the U.S. and globally, related to expected long-term impacts of the pandemic? 

Health care delivery has faced enormous changes through this pandemic. There is global concern about delays in care for non-COVID-19-related illnesses. Nationally, our frontline clinical professions, particularly nursing, are seeing a flood of retirements and transitions. The demand for traveling clinicians has also led to soaring pay rates, so nurses are choosing to travel rather than have a home base. The loss in volume, and subsequently revenue, coupled with increased patient care costs places significant financial pressure on health care providers. These stressors are being felt in the United States, locally, and particularly in rural hospitals and independent physician groups where closures may continue. We expect this will lead to increased consolidation. Still, here in Tucson and across the country, we have seen health care delivery systems partner with public health departments to better face this pandemic.  I hope we continue these partnerships and learn how to better serve our communities.

From your business vantage point, what qualities put the Tucson region in a position to recover quicker economically and more effectively than other regions?    

Our climate and geography will be increasingly attractive for those who want to spend more time outdoors and have more room than in major cities. These same factors may allow us to better manage the delicate balance of public health to keep people safe and our community open. We have already seen this in our recruiting efforts for physician leaders over the past several months. 

What are some of the attributes of Tucson that you personally enjoy?   

There are so many things about Tucson that my family and I love including the incredible diversity of people, the pride in histories and cultures of Tucson and the opportunities the University of Arizona offers.  But there are two things that set Tucson apart.  First, the natural beauty we experience every day here is spectacular.  I love to watch the mountains wake up each morning, to be out on a run and catch a glimpse of wildlife or to explore a new hike into the mountains. Second, I really enjoy the people who choose to live here.  While there is great diversity in backgrounds and interests, there is a universal commitment to kindness. 

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