Atrium Health CEO on eliminating testing disparities, hospital capacity and a vaccine

Gene Woods, president and CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health, spoke July 26 on CBS‘ “Face the Nation” about hospital capacity, addressing disparities in communities of color and a vaccine.

The interview occurred days after he testified July 21 before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging on behalf of Atrium’s 70,000-member workforce.

Three takeaways from Mr. Woods:

1. On hospital capacity: “Early on [in the pandemic], we realized we needed to have more capacity inside the hospitals, so we launched what we call a virtual hospital. Imagine if you have COVID-19 and you are being treated in your own bedroom. We’ve converted people’s homes and bedrooms into hospital rooms. We have monitoring. We do virtual visits. And if you need something like medication, we’re working with the paramedics to deliver them into your home. We’ve actually cared for about 11,000 COVID patients in their homes, and I think that gives me confidence as we continue to battle COVID that we’ll have the beds that we need to serve the community.”

2. On addressing disparities in communities of color: “COVID has magnified the disparities and the crisis of marginalized communities. As we think about the legacy of [the late] Congressman John Lewis, he said if you see something that’s not right, we have a moral obligation to fix it and address it. And that’s why early on, we engaged with communities of color, these marginalized communities. First of all, we had established relationships there, but also we had the data. We had the science. We geo-spatially mapped hotspots in our communities down to the ZIP code. And what we saw early on was the disparities in testing. We worked with the pastors, we worked with the community leaders, and we loaded up mobile vans, medical vans with supplies and personnel. And we said to the pastors in the community, ‘Where do you need us?’ We went into the parking lots. We went wherever we were needed. And in a matter of about a week’s time, we eliminated the disparities of testing in these vulnerable communities.”

3. On a COVID-19 vaccine: “We have asked that healthcare workers throughout the country, especially in the hotspot areas, be at the front of the line [for a vaccine] together with essential workers, including teachers. We’ve already made that request [to lawmakers].”


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