From the COVID-19 impact on West Virginia, telemedicine, advice for going outdoors to how your local medical professionals are doing, David Goldberg, President and CEO of Mon Health, provides critical takeaways for the listeners of the Positively West Virginia Podcast.
Goldberg is a highly regarded leader in the healthcare sector. In West Virginia, some of Goldberg's responsibilities include:
- Mon Health Medical Center, a 189-bed general, acute care hospital in Morgantown
- Mon Health Preston Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in Kingwood
- Mon Health Stonewall Jackson Hospital, a 70-bed hospital in Weston
Learn more about Goldberg's take on COVID-19 below.
GOLDBERG'S OVERVIEW OF COVID-19 IN WEST VIRGINIA
What can West Virginia businesses do – right now – to survive this current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic situation we're all facing today?
"I'm privileged and blessed to have been in different parts of the country in healthcare. I've been in Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh area before coming here to Mon Health. Everyone is dealing with the issue a little differently due to population trends and the growth of the COVID-19 spread. We did a lot of the right things as early as we could," said Goldberg.
Goldberg mentioned his team acting on the following:
- Reduced elective surgeries immediately
- Started watching this trend in January and February
- Across the region, we've asked people who do not need medical attention to bend the curve by staying home.
- Use telemedicine and stay at home to communicate with their doctors
- Wash hands and social distance
- Try to keep away from the ones we love a little more than usual, so we can get this COVID-19 bent and eradicated faster
Mon Health is an integrated network of hospitals, physician clinics and outpatient centers that work together to make healthcare more accessible and affordable to residents of north-central West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania and western Maryland.
"We see a difference in escalation in West Virginia," said Goldberg.
According to Goldberg, experts are expecting the peak of the virus to be around April 16 now.
"We have to watch the trend for how people are presenting. I want to make sure everyone is listening, your healthcare system in the state of West Virginia is strong. We have lots of ventilator capacity. A lot of medical beds. Wonderful staff who are taking care of themselves and their families. Putting themselves on the front line to make sure every one of our friends and neighbors is well-taken care of during this time," said Goldberg.
ENJOYING THE OUTDOORS - WITH CAUTION
"The weather is getting nicer, so people want to go outside and get some vitamin D - that's a good thing," said Goldberg.
Goldberg recommends maintaining your six to eight feet apart from people if you do go outside.
"This is not a vacation; this is not a time for you to spend at home that you wouldn't normally get. Don't risk yourself. Take the time. It's a marathon. We're at mile 10 on a 26.2-mile race. It means you have to have stamina. You have to understand your surroundings. You have to pace yourself. There are times you're going to surge a little bit - okay. There are times you're going to slow down. But, you're going to get to the end of the marathon. We, as West Virginians, are going to do that. But we've got to stay responsible. Go to the store when you need to, but don't overly go. Don't overly go out. Pace yourself. Don't risk yourself or others around you," said Goldberg.
"Be prudent until proven you have symptoms otherwise," Goldberg continued, "Let's not risk exposure to yourself. If you're asymptomatic, how do you even know?" If a person is positive, that single person could take out dozens of people without knowing.
THE IMPACT OF TELEMEDICINE
"You can talk directly face to face with your clinician. To see a doctor live, they refer you right in. It's something that helps bend the curve, but it's less expensive and timely. The majority of our doctors from primary care to general surgeons, dermatologists, every "-ologist" you can find has a room. So you call right now precisely like it's a physician appointment. We'll set up an appointment with you, and you enter "a room." There's the doctor with the patient. They go through a regular treatment discussion about what their issues are.
Most of the initial visit should be in person. But, today, since we're social distancing, a doctor will ascertain if it's appropriate to do that initial visit by video or if it needs to be in person and, of course, follow the clinical protocols. Then they visit them.
Medicines can be ordered. The wonderful quality can see pictures of your rash or condition of the camera on your phone. Then, they follow up. It goes right into your medical record. We can keep a record of the conversation, what was shared and the continuity is phenomenal. So it's an excellent tool.
I think we're going to use it more and post-COVID-19, most people who experienced it before we hope they continue using it and we believe they will," said Goldberg.
CHECKING ON YOUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS
"We have generations of people here. The people are holding up. There's anxiety. They're interacting with people who may or may not have COVID-19," said Goldberg.
Goldberg talked more in-depth about his concerns:
"To me, we've reduced our elective surgeries. We have an ambulatory surgery center that partners with some of the orthopedic centers like Mountainstate Orthopedics, Dr. Bill Post and Dr. Tom McClellan. They can't do surgery there. They've dried up their revenue coming in for elective joints and plastic surgery. The anxiety is high. We at Mon are used to having flex our staff. When we don't have volume, we encourage people to take their paid vacation or flex time off.
I'm used to having 70 percent occupants at Stonewall Jackson Memorial or Preston. My 500 beds are filling maybe 70 to 90 beds a day out of 500. That's a significant revenue decrease. Fifty-five percent of our revenue now is not being seen in this service world. That is a concern.
I want our listeners to know our staff to know we're here with you. We're encouraging people to use the time they have in their vacation banks. We're helping people who are in dangerous situations paycheck to paycheck. We're gauging how we can cut expenses that are not patient-faced to defer some of those costs to keep revenue coming in so we can pay our people."
In light of COVID-19, Goldberg spoke with optimism.
"We are blessed with decades of support to this community—good stewardship of our resources. We have vast reserves in place to weather the storm. My job is to keep people calm. Balance the plates on sticks.
I'm blessed with the best management team—the best physicians. The best colleagues who are not only putting themselves in harm's way, but they're also being good stewards of our resources to make sure we're not only here for today and tomorrow, but for the next generation of healthcare workers who will use us. And the community who will continue to use Mon for their provider of care of choice," said Goldberg.
When asked, "How do you prepare to respond to this," Goldberg responds with the following:
"Healthcare - we're first responders. We drill and test and prepare for building failure, system failure, significant catastrophes. But a pandemic like this isn't something you really prepare for.
So what I'd say with something like this we've learned: you've got to move policies and procedures up a notch regularly to understand and be prepared. A supply chain is one of the most significant issues. We're blessed to have an ample supply of masks, gloves, etc.
The outpouring of people has been unbelievable to see that. They're coming out front and center for first responders. What we do in the hospital doesn't always translate to an independent facility."
Goldberg spoke of lessons he's able to pull from this pandemic experience:
- "Part of it is making sure you've got the cash flows right, access points rights, cleaning and supply chain is all the same. You could have someone from any business and it's very similar."
- "I live here in town and watch the streets. You look and see we're bending the cure. People are listening in their own way. You don't see as many people out and about."
- "Let's not over exaggerate or inflate the situation. Let's be reasonable and careful."
- "If you have a doubt and don't feel well. Flu or allergies. Talk to your doctors, self-monitor."
Find out more about Mon Health here.
Listen to the full podcast here.