When Covid-19 hit, Trinitas hit back…with a true team effort.

By Yolanda Navarra Fleming

You don’t have to be in healthcare to comprehend the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gary S. Horan, President & CEO of Trinitas Regional Medical Center, says it’s been unlike anything he has experienced in his many years in healthcare administration. As he details, Trinitas staff members met the challenges of the patient surge in the spirit of skill, compassion, and innovative teamwork.

EDGE:  How has Trinitas Regional Medical Center adapted to the “new normal” conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic?

GH: It was a challenge we didn’t expect but were prepared for, partly because Trinitas is no stranger to innovation. Innovation is the key in responding to something as novel as the COVID-19 pandemic.  We had to get creative about a lot of things, including making additional space for COVID patients during the surge. We have taken every precaution to keep our population safe, including patients, staff members, and the outside community.

EDGE: How did the staff handle the surge?

GH: Well, prior to the surge, we activated our Emergency Command Center, which is staffed by senior administration, safety personnel, and infection-prevention personnel.  Meetings and institution-wide conference calls were held every day to address the many issues that we knew were coming up. It was and still is a very volatile time, but saving lives is our business. We have such a dedicated, well-rounded, and fearless staff, who are not focusing on the negatives. But they needed help. As part of the Heroes Helping Heroes initiative, we were fortunate enough to have 20 registered nurses from Centura Health in Colorado come to Trinitas to assist in our efforts. They were extremely helpful in our Emergency Department and the Medical/Surgical units for more than four weeks.

EDGE: With a decline in the number of cases, do you expect another surge?

GH: There is certainly the possibility of another surge, but it drastically depends on how people behave in the upcoming weeks, and whether or not they observe the safety precautions. If people choose not to wear masks, use proper hand hygiene, follow the guidelines of social distancing, and avoid crowds, I’d say another surge is likely. If it comes to that, we are prepared and will do our best to carry out the Trinitas mission, just as we did the first time around.

EDGE: In the meantime, what do you say to people who may be staying away from the hospital because they’re afraid to return?

GH: The fear is understandable, but unwarranted. We use advanced technology as part of many steps to disinfect the entire hospital.  We were an early user of the Surfacide Disinfection UV-C system. This technology uses ultraviolet light to sterilize surfaces after they’ve already been wiped down with bleach. We’re asking our community to not neglect their health by putting off elective procedures and diagnostic testing because they think it might be unsafe to come to the hospital. It’s actually one of the safest places to be at the moment because of this technology and our attention to the matter.

EDGE:  How has the pandemic affected your organization as a whole? Is there such a thing as a “silver lining” in this environment?

GH: I think so. The fact that Trinitas is a Catholic teaching hospital means that we possess a strong sense of faith as an institution. In spite of the challenges we’re facing, we are grateful for the ways we had to rise to the occasion. So, I would say a silver lining is seeing a great team spirit to fight and win against this pandemic.