Column: Coming Together in Times of Crisis

May 12, 2020

In times of a public health crisis, the true test of leadership is not exemplified through solitary actions or isolated mechanics but instead through the collective actions of health care systems, businesses, non-profits, government, and communities coming together to confront the threat and work towards its defeat.

As leaders of three of Iowa's largest health systems, and members of the Iowa Business Council (IBC), we have the unique opportunity to demonstrate cohesive leadership as we address the COVID-19 pandemic. By serving on the IBC, we work with our peers, representing some of the largest companies and industries in Iowa, to elevate Iowa's economy and serve as a catalyst for economic vitality. This connection to the largest employers in the state will assist our efforts to defeat the virus and restart our economy.

COVID-19 is unlike any other health crisis we have seen. While we are leading in challenging times, each of our health systems has adapted swiftly to implement regulatory and policy modifications in our statewide response. In many ways, we see ourselves as an extension of our public health system, finding ways to rally together behind the communities we serve to provide healthcare to Iowans. We are proud to serve in this capacity and want to thank our thousands of team members and providers who work on the frontlines by caring for the sick, sustaining vital operations, and showing kindness and bravery during a time of uncertainty.

Collaboration has been critical in our successful strategy to address the coronavirus and keep Iowans healthy. At the start of the health crisis, our systems came together to advise elected leaders with on-the-ground intelligence and response plans. This work includes sharing of predictive modeling, consistent regional surge planning to increase our capacity, working regionally to resume elective procedures, and sharing needed supplies like ventilators.

In addition to collaborating regularly to determine supply chain constraints, we are innovating and joining forces on projects to defeat the virus. Our health systems collaborated with the Iowa Department of Public Health as well as local emergency management teams to create regional plans to meet the need of an anticipated increase of COVID-19 patients and are continuing to work together to monitor and implement strategies to meet the needs of the communities. UnityPoint Health partnered with the University of Iowa's Protostudio’s engineers to mass-produce face shields. In Central Iowa, MercyOne, UnityPoint Health and Polk County Public Health collaborate on a regular basis to help ensure their communities are informed. University of Iowa Health Care serves as triage location for high-risk patients from our hospitals and is working on potential COVID-19 treatments. We've held a joint state legislative town hall to address Iowans' questions, and we are in frequent, unified communication with local, state and federal officials.

We have been amazed by the outpouring of support from businesses and individuals in the communities we serve. The sharing of hearts for our health care heroes, donations of handmade masks and many other ways have strengthened our mission and helped our teams feel supported in this unprecedented time. We are grateful to serve you.

While the total impact of COVID-19 is not clear yet, we know one thing for certain: Iowans are stronger together than we are alone. We know that without each other, we would not be where we are today in addressing the pandemic and journeying towards recovery. MercyOne, UnityPoint and University of Iowa Health Care will continue to stand together in fighting for Iowans' health.

And as we work with our business peers as members of the IBC, we know collaboration among industries throughout Iowa will be just as important to re-establish Iowa's economic prosperity. The IBC was born out of one of the most difficult economic times in Iowa’s history: the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. As leaders did then, we will continue to come together to address Iowa's economic vitality and develop solutions towards recovery.

This article was written by J. Brooks Jackson, vice president for medical affairs, University of Iowa Health Care; Bob Ritz, chief executive officer, MercyOne; Sue Thompson, interim president and chief executive officer, UnityPoint Health.

Read the article here.


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