Bryan Mills, president and CEO of Community Health Network, recently talked with 13News about running one of Indiana’s largest hospital systems during a pandemic.
Community recorded the state’s first case of COVID-19 and the state’s first COVID death in March of 2020.
At the same time, Mills tested positive for the virus and stayed in his basement on the north side to recover, quarantine, and work remotely. Now —a year later — a few symptoms linger.
Mills said he’s largely back to normal, but he still can’t taste or smell.
By the summer of 2020, Mill started donating his plasma to help those who were still sick. He’s since returned to working from the CHN campus on Indy’s northeast side.
During the interview with 13News a year ago, Mills suggested we were in the first quarter of the fight against COVID-19.
“I wish when I said it was the first quarter, it wasn’t, but it was,” Mills said. “I’m still cautious. I think we’re in the second half,” Mills said.
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This time last year, CHN had 500 of its more than 15,000 employees in quarantine.
Now, with staff vaccinations, losing team members to quarantine is no longer a big concern. Also, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are dramatically down.
“At its peak, our hospitalization would have been around 250 to 275. Now, we’re in the teens,” Mills said. “These are people that are hospitalized. I mean, we’ve also learned a lot more about how to treat people ambulatory and we understand the masks work.”
Mills and his team were able to repurpose, retrain and deploy nearly 2,000 health care workers to meet peak demand. In June, CHN reduced its workforce by 80 positions, mostly considered administrative or open and unfilled jobs.
Looking ahead, Mill is focused on the health of his staff and addressing community fears about safely accessing care.
“I’ve told my senior team and my board — when we finally get through this, I’m concerned that we’ve got all these people that are just going to be burned out. They’ve come, like soldiers every day, and said, ‘I’m here to do it, I do my job.’ I’m worried that when it’s all said and done, (they’ll say) ‘I need a break. I need to do something else.’ And I think we’re going have to find ways to wrap our arms around people, to give them an opportunity to do that, but we need them to provide health care,” Mills said. “I worry about people being scared of the health care system. They don’t get the preventive screenings. I’m worried about what happens down the road doing. I see us wearing masks and in taking these other precautions for many, many months.”
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