Learn2 Lead – Learn2 Lead – Lori Marshall – President and CEO of Chatham-Kent Health Alliance


How has COVID-19 impacted Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and what helped them prepare?




Doug Bolger 0:04
So Laurie, you’ve been through our Learn2 Save the Titanic program. How has it prepared you for the Covid-19 crisis?

Lori Marshall 0:14
So I think the Learn2 Save the Titanic program was really a great example of exactly what we’re going through. The first thing that I would observe is that going into the Titanic simulation, everybody knows how that actual real event ended. And so you go into it with a particular paradigm and thinking how it’s gonna happen. And I know that you probably wouldn’t do anything differently than the people who were in the situation. And so I think with respect to the pandemic, in North America, we had the advantage of knowing about the situations in China, in Italy and in healthcare, that’s what we were bracing for and preparing for. And so we basically went in trying to save the passengers when we think about the Titanic and saving the passengers in the ship. So we put all of our effort into saving the acute care facilities, decanting patients, moving patients from the hospital out into long term care, stopping elective surgeries, creating more capacity where we’ve never had it before, in order to be able to anticipate this huge crush of individuals who would need to be admitted for care. And about, you know, a few weeks into it. What we then realized was that the social distancing was making a difference in terms of who was showing up doors, and that, in fact, all of the efforts that we had been putting into creating more and more capacity, were perhaps focused on a different area than where the real issue was now. And for us now, it’s in congregate settings. It’s in long term care, it’s in retirement homes. It’s in shelters, it’s places where people are living. Living closely together where the transmission is happening, and then some with some devastating impacts there. So for me that was very much like the state of the Titanic where we put all of our efforts into trying to save the passengers. And then all of a sudden, we had this aha moment. Well, if we could save the ship, we ended up saving all of the passengers. So there’s been a major pivot, I would say, in terms of healthcare, with respect to moving away from creating more and more capacity in the acute care sector, and moving now more towards how do we help and support those vulnerable populations.

Doug Bolger 2:33
So in terms of your leadership team, and that ability to build on top of each other and really focus in from an idea and translating it into an action has that ability of driving from idea to action impacted how you’ve operated throughout the crisis?

Lori Marshall 2:55
I think that driving from idea to action has been on steroids. Right now, it truly has been this experience itself. I have a relatively new team to one another, some who’ve been here a long time, and others who really just joined the organization. And it’s incredible to me how quickly a crisis galvanizes everyone together, you very quickly come to what the actions are you implement, you move on to the next one. And what I would say is, it was a change for us as hospitals, we normally be very risk averse. We tend to ruminate over decisions a lot. It’s hard for us to do rapid cycle improvement and then move on to something else. And I think this experience has been such that some of the advice we were hearing, particularly I would say from New York, was that, you know, don’t wait around for the perfect solution. Time is what you have to act on right now. If you wait for the perfect solution, it will be too late. And so, you know, we probably put something in place where normally we would say no, we would never ever do that. And we pivoted when we needed to. So I think it actually was a tremendous team building experience unto itself. And now, what we’re going to have to do, though, is to think about when you move out of a pandemic, you can’t stand the command and control kind of structure. And so that I think is going to be a challenge for not only us, but for funders for governments who have enjoyed for this period of time and ability to make and enact decisions very quickly. And you can only do that for that short period of time based on the fact that prior to that you’re very consultative, and afterwards there’s the social contract that you’re going to return to that kind of decision making environment. So That’s going to be the challenge and the shift to know when to make that piece is is going to be a challenge for us.

Doug Bolger 5:07
And I think for a lot of people when they think of COVID, they think of just the human loss and the tragedy. And yet, there’s also a triumph inside of this of galvanizing your team together, doing what’s impossible. How has your team shifted from that tragedy into the triumphs? What are some of the wins that you guys have done?

Lori Marshall 5:33
I think one of the things we’ve done really well in this is communicate. And I for me, that’s a major challenge and one where we’ve had daily memos going out to all of our staff, there are huddles, we’re on the radio four times a week with different radio shows communicating with the community. And it is really it hasn’t just galvanized, I would say our intellect senior leadership team it’s galvanized the entire hospital. And so you know things like if a lights on in an office late at night somebody knocking that door just to check in and how are you? Right? I those kinds of things in a normal environment probably wouldn’t be happening. But there is very much this caretaking, I would say that has happened within the full organization. And people are saying thank you to one another. And it’s, it’s really very heartening to see.

Doug Bolger 6:34
And have you been able to prevent this spread locally?

Lori Marshall 6:40
So I think our community’s actually done very well. We’ve had very, very few cases in the community. We’ve only ever had a total of four admissions to the hospital and a population size of 100,000 people. We’ve worked very well with our public health organization. In, in our community, and that partnership, some of the decisions that have been made there to close down some things earlier than other jurisdictions, I have, I think actually made quite a difference. We’ve had no outbreaks in the organization, so no transmission from patients to staff or staff to staff, which again, helps us in terms of people feeling confident, and their safety is being looked after safety is one of our values. And we’ve gone out of our way, I would say to make sure that staff and physicians know that that’s our commitment to them, we are not going to send them into an unsafe situation. And that gives them the confidence of knowing that they can care for patients the way that they do.

Doug Bolger 7:46
Well, we’d be remiss if we didn’t say thank you, because I know quite often, being the CEO is a thankless job and your leadership has certainly protected your community and prepared your hospital. allowed that group to galvanize around and just on behalf of all of us, the community and the business world and society at large thank you to you and your team for everything you’ve done.

Lori Marshall 8:14
Thank you


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