CEO of UF Health Jacksonville says hospitals working together through coronavirus crisis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Health care organizations have been stretched with the spread of the new coronavirus.

There are several hospitals across Northeast Florida, and they’ve been working together to prepare and begin treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Leon L. Haley, the CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the College of Medicine in Jacksonville, said while medical students aren’t treating patients directly, it’s a learning time for everyone.

“I’ve been in health care for 30 years. I’ve been in emergency medicine, so I’ve been on the front lines and it’s one of those things never seen before,” Haley said.

Haley told News4Jax on Monday that the coronavirus pandemic has been, in some ways, as shocking to medical professionals as most of the public, but it’s not a total surprise, as a health crisis is something that those in medicine have already discussed as a possibility.

“Most of us probably thought, ‘Well, we’ll probably never see it.’ And here it is right here. It’s right in our face, and it’s been moving across the globe just like you’ve been expecting. So it’s been a little bit shocking, but that being said, I think we’ve done a lot in our history around trying to prepare for, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do," Haley said.

Haley said the hospitals are working together through the crisis, with a daily phone call among all the chief executives. They talk about each facility’s staffing, equipment and capabilities.

“That is one of the big challenges if you look at what’s happening in New York and Seattle and Los Angeles. You know that the ICUs are going to get stretched. Admissions are going to get stretched. So we talk about each other’s capacity. Actually, through the city, we can share and see everybody’s volumes and see how that’s working,” he said.

Haley said distancing will continue for quite some time, whether it’s 30 or 60 or 90 days.

As far as whether the number of cases will explode or whether efforts to flatter the curve will prove effective, Haley said that they’ll likely have an idea in the next couple of weeks.

“A big test for us is going to be over the next two weeks. That’s when we’re going to know, are patients going to start coming in? Or is the distancing starting to work? And so we’re going to have a good feel for that next probably two weeks,” Haley said.

Haley added he doesn’t like the phrase "social distancing” as much as physical distancing. He said it is still important for people to connect somehow.

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