Garren Colvin on St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s Efforts to Combat COVID-19

The president and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare discusses the hospital network’s preparation to care for victims of the pandemic and its participation in a trial to help end it.

“A few years ago during the Ebola scare, we formed an Infectious Disease Response Team in case we were inundated, which we weren’t. We kept the team in place with periodic training, so when COVID-19 hit our radar, we pressed “go” and activated them. We dedicated one of our four Northern Kentucky facilities to be our COVID-19 center, Ft. Thomas. Our facilities people turned four wings of that hospital into isolation wards, reworking the air and heating flow to create totally independent systems.

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

“I’m so impressed by the hard work of our 9,000 physicians and associates. I would stop by Ft. Thomas to meet and talk with our staff, hoping to uplift them and show support—but they always uplifted me. Their attitude going onto shifts and coming off of shifts was remarkable. I never missed a day of work in the office, nor has anyone on our leadership team. If we asked our associates to be on the front lines in our hospitals, I wanted us to be there too.

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“We’re excited to be one of 10 U.S. hospitals working on a clinical trial for a new COVID-19 drug treatment. We got involved because of our relationship with [Covington-based clinical research and consulting firm] CTI; we told them St. Elizabeth had the interest and the capacity to ramp up research quickly, which is the key with this virus. It’s a phase II trial, meaning smaller-scale, in-house research. If successful, phase III will involve the general public.

“Health care facilities across this region were the safest places for the public during the pandemic. Too many people died at home or got in bad shape at home because they were afraid to see their doctor or go to the hospital. It didn’t have to happen. We prepared for the worst case, which thankfully hasn’t happened, and we’re ready for a second COVID-19 spike in the coming months. More than 80 percent of those who tested positive for COVID-19 showed only mild or no symptoms, so it’s hard to say how widespread it is in our communities right now.”

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