Memphis hospitals unite, pledge to work together to combat coronavirus

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 21, 2020 9:17 PM CT | Published: March 21, 2020 8:21 PM CT

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Leaders of the city’s four major medical institutions have worked out unprecedented terms of cooperation among their institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders of Baptist Memorial Health Care, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Regional One Health and St. Francis Hospital-Memphis agree, among other things, to work jointly to secure more tests for the virus and necessary medical supplies from multiple sources. And it includes working on developing local testing, something the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center has already been working on.

Earlier in the day Saturday, Shelby County Health Department director Alisa Haushalter said she and others were working on alternative supplies for creating more tests locally and expecting medical supplies from a national stockpile this weekend.

The pact also includes an across the board agreement among the four institutions to postpone elective surgery that is not urgent “to free up space, personnel and equipment to focus on COVID-19 treatment.”

The four also agree the COVID-19 testing “is only appropriate for those showing symptoms at this time.”

For first time, Memphis gets sense of how many have been tested

It also urges the public to avoid going to any hospitals among the four institutions at the first sign of symptoms, but to instead call a doctors for a phone consultation. For those without a primary care doctor, the pact recommends calling those institutions directly for the assignment of a primary care physician.

Here is the text of the letter:

To our community:

As the leaders of our region’s four primary healthcare systems, we send this message of solidarity and dedication to approaching the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all in this together. Everyone has a role to play.

The COVID-19 pandemic is international in scope; but its impact is very personal, extending to every individual and family in our community.

Hospitals are on the front lines. The greater Memphis area is fortunate to have a robust and high-quality healthcare infrastructure. Baptist, Methodist, Regional One and Saint Francis are exceptionally capable institutions and our mission remains the same as always: to protect and enhance the well-being of this community we all love. We will meet this moment.

Meeting this moment requires the close partnership of national, state and local entities to ensure we have the resources needed to meet the expected increase of cases in our hospitals.

It has become the highest national priority to prepare the healthcare system for what could be an unprecedented rise of patients in our facilities. An extraordinary national public-private sector effort is now mobilized to provide hospitals like ours with added resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing kits, ventilators and other critical supplies. Please know that we are in constant contact with government agencies at all levels to be sure they know our front-line concerns and needs.

Meeting this moment requires each hospital to take strong action to prepare.

While the number of cases in our area is well below other areas of the country, we know that appropriate action is required now to be ready. This includes:

  • Continuing to secure more COVID-19 testing kits through multiple avenues, including public sector agencies, private-sector vendors and for some of us developing our own in-house testing capability.
  • Conserving critically needed supplies like personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.).
  • Postponing non-urgent, medically unnecessary elective procedures to free up space, personnel and equipment to focus on COVID-19 treatment.
  • Modifying visitor access to our facilities to keep patients, caregivers and the public safe.
  • Screening anyone who enters our facilities, including our employees and providers.

Meeting this moment requires every member of the community to do their part.

Confronting this challenge is everyoneís responsibility. We each have a role to play, which includes:

  • Adhering to all guidance on social distancing and rigorous hygiene.
  • Closely monitoring yourself and loved ones for symptoms.
  • Understanding that COVID-19 testing is only appropriate for those showing symptoms at this time.
  • Avoiding going to any of our hospitals at the first sign of symptoms. Instead, call your doctor for an initial phone consultation. If you do not have a primary care doctor, simply call any of us and we will have one assigned.
  • Understanding that the decision of hospitals to postpone non-urgent, medically unnecessary elective surgeries is in accordance with CDC guidelines and is in the best interest of the collective health of the community.
  • Adhering to the visitation policies of the hospital.

Please know that we are working around the clock to prepare for the challenges ahead; to protect our staff and patients; and care for the community. We continue to work very closely with local, state and national partners to ensure that we are best positioned for what’s to come.

We thank our doctors, nurses and clinical care team members who work in our hospitals every day. These men and women are heroes in every sense of the word. The coming weeks and months will require every bit of their strength, patience and stamina, and we ask everyone to support our healthcare workers in any way you can.

Please know we are up to the challenge and prepared to care for this community. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant and positive, and to keep up with the latest information on our websites.

Stay safe and God bless,

Reginald Coopwood, MD
President & CEO
Regional One Health

Sally Deitch
Group CEO
Memphis Market CEO
Saint Francis-Memphis CEO

Jason Little
President & CEO
Baptist Memorial Health Care

Michael Ugwueke
President & CEO
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare

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