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Chronicle of Our Pandemic Year

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Looking back on successfully meeting challenges in 2020, with hope for 2021

UH Clinical Update | January 2021

By Cliff Megerian, MD, President, University Hospitals

Cliff Megerian, MD Cliff Megerian, MD

As we begin the New Year, it’s time for a positive note – which I mean both literally and symbolically.

We are hopeful that 2021 will be a better year than 2020, not least because vaccinations for COVID-19 are under way. At the time of this writing, more than 12,000 UH caregivers have already received the first dose of the vaccine, and many thousands more will receive vaccinations this month.

Looking back over the year that just ended, there also are many positive achievements of which we should remind ourselves. I want to thank you all for what I consider one of the years for which we at UH can be most proud – and I say this in the context of our entire 154-year history.

Why? Because all that we achieved was done while facing an enemy of which we knew very little. The newly evolved and highly contagious virus was, at first, an unknown entity in the field of medicine, which naturally led to a tremendous amount of anxiety and fear among caregivers, patients and the community.

Yet we responded far better than most health systems. We did so by being a respected caregiver that accepted all patients, and by being among the pioneers who trialed two of the vaccines now in use. We also participated in the monoclonal antibodies trial, leading to the use of this promising agent for treating early COVID-19.

There also was our clinical trial for the drug remdesivir, which quickly proved to be effective in shortening the duration for the illness in many patients. And we innovated too, for example, by using the Masimo SafetyNet device. It monitors a patient’s pulse, oxygen, blood pressure, and heart and respiratory rates, sending a signal through a patient’s cell phone to a hospital’s command center. This became a crucial tool that allowed many ill patients to stay at home while we could conserve PPE, increase hospital capacity and limit exposure to caregivers.

Let’s not forget we also stepped up to becoming an educator, as we responded to businesses that trusted our expertise and sought our counsel on re-opening in late spring while keeping their employees and customers safe. Some employers sought out consultations from our experts, but many more turned to the UH Healthy Restart Playbook – more than 10,000 businesses and schools downloaded it from our web site.

This detailed 36-page guide was created in less than a week by a cross-section of leaders and staff, who worked around the clock. The playbook included detailed input from our UH infectious disease physicians, environmental engineers, chemical engineers, members of the UH Ventures design team, and writers and graphic designers in our marketing department.

While we also suffered some financial hardship in 2020, we were able to end the year with financial stability – thanks in part to the sacrifices that many of you made.

In fact, it was the perception by other hospital systems of our strength in managing during a crisis that contributed to Lake Health agreeing to join our system (pending regulatory approval), as well as Western Reserve Hospital and Value Health to partner with us. Other collaborations are also in the works, and we will continue to grow our base of patients who trust UH implicitly.

This trust exists because of the can-do spirit and the selflessness of our physicians and staff, who throughout the years have provided a sense of comfort in our community. And even during the surges in the numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, we were able to offer care for all patients who didn’t have COVID. While recently many hospitals temporarily shut down some of their standard operations for a time, we did not – since May, we’ve continually been able to provide elective or what are known as non-essential procedures. That is due to your work and dedication.

I am more proud than ever of our UH system, and I’m eager to begin working with you in earnest as I assume the CEO position at the end of this month.

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