For more than 15 months, while most of the state, and the country, hunkered down — created home offices, studied via Zoom, and ordered takeout dinners to avoid the potential for COVID-19 infection — your hospitals were on the front lines, each and every day. While many retreated, you confronted the pandemic head-on.
Hospitals, long the cornerstone of the communities they serve, were thrust into the spotlight. Newspaper articles and TV reports regularly shared stories about health care heroes, praising them for their efforts. They worked till exhaustion and then went home, only to get up the next day and do it all over again. Hospitals also did their part to reward their heroes, spending millions on bonuses, childcare and subsidies, temporary housing, extended leave, and more.
At the same time, hospitals quickly took extraordinary measures to make sure they had enough resources to care for all patients. You converted space to make room for more beds, procured and allocated protective equipment to ensure an adequate supply for the long haul, and secured state and federal waivers to operate with much-needed flexibility.
Cases are down, hospitalizations are down, ICUs are no longer filled to capacity. Once a regular reminder of the severity of the pandemic, the daily metrics that we watched ever so carefully have now been retired. With the vaccination effort in full swing, we remain optimistic that the full force of the pandemic is behind us.
Now, as the state’s economy has reopened with no social distancing and limits on capacity, and we attempt to put the pandemic behind us, it’s clearer than ever that the importance of hospitals has not been lost on anyone.
But even as we turn the page on this chapter in history, plenty of challenges lie ahead. Financially, the economic impacts from COVID-19 may be felt for years to come, and legislatively, numerous bills being considered would have major implications for hospitals and the patients they serve. COVID-19-related legislation that includes testing and reporting requirements, disaster modernization, and a proposal to create an Office of Health Care Affordability are among the top priority bills.
For more about the latest developments on this year’s state advocacy work, CHA is a holding a briefing on June 24 from 8 to 9 a.m. (PT). The briefing is free for members, but registration is required.
While there have been many lessons learned from the pandemic, it has only served to reinforce how vital hospitals are. CHA and Hospital Council will continue to engage with lawmakers to ensure they understand the fundamental roles hospitals and health systems play in caring for all Californians in times of need.