President & CEO, TMC HealthCare
In what ways has your organization had to “pivot” as the short-term impacts of the pandemic took hold?
We had just completed our goals for the year when COVID-19 was initially reported in the United States. Much of that work was put aside as we re-engineered our work processes and our facility to prepare for the first surge. COVID-19’s impact was a paradox in that as a health crisis, one would expect greater use of the healthcare system. Instead, while we saw more patients coming to us with a new, deadly contagion, we also saw our business cut in half when the governor halted “elective” procedures. Fewer patients meant less need for bedside staff, support staff, administrative staff and onward. To share the burden, most staff reduced hours yet we worked hard to maintain the hours and paychecks for our lower earning staff. We also worked to ensure staff had what they needed, and not just personal protective equipment (PPE). We opened a shop to provide free toilet paper, baby formula, cereal, paper towels and other essential items. Since most schools have been virtual, many staff elected to be home to help their kids. We’re working on ways we can help, including exploring a learning center on campus. Also, our nurses, therapists, doctors and clinical staff are burning out. I worry about the long-term impacts of this stress. It’s made harder when this epidemic is fueled by a lack of compliance with simple, effective measures.
What trends are you experiencing in your own industry, across the U.S. and globally, related to expected long-term impacts of the pandemic?
One of the long-term impacts is the realization that a large part of our society doesn’t believe in science or evidence-based decision-making and is susceptible to misinformation. Death rates are soaring as a result. I’m not sure how we crack this nut, but stronger STEM education and critical thinking skills are essential. While the promise of vaccines is encouraging, the latest Gallup survey showed only 58% of the country is willing to get vaccinated. I also worry about the long-term impact on our doctors, nurses and other clinical staff. The toll is significant and I fear, many will leave health care for careers in other industries.
From your business vantage point, what qualities put the Tucson region in a position to recover quicker economically and more effectively than other regions?
As businesses learned telecommuting was a viable alternative to cubicles, I expect we’ll see telecommuters choosing to live in Tucson. Our downtown is a very attractive place to live with reasonable cost of housing and a vibrant environment. Our biosciences sector has been part of the COVID-19 vaccine development and I see many promising new regional startups. I think as soon as it’s safe, people are going to travel again and increased tourism will help the region.
What are some of the attributes of Tucson that you personally enjoy?
I love the outdoors here – and that’s been a great opportunity for us during this pandemic. It’s so easy to find a comfortable patio – whether at a restaurant or right in my backyard. I’m not from the desert, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with the mountains, the majestic saguaros, the birds and wildlife! I have to say, though, it’s more about the people. Tucson has friendly, smart and kind people committed to their community – and their community hospital!