How is this pandemic different from other medical crises you’ve experienced in your career?
During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, I was the medical director for the infection control program at Harborview Medical Center. That outbreak required a healthcare response, but it didn’t create the same social disruption or change in our hospitals and clinics. This is an unprecedented time for healthcare, combining three crises at once: our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, serious financial challenges and systemic racism.
What are the emotional impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare workers?
There have been so many emotions — from the realization in February that we had community transmission and the uncertainty of what lay ahead, to relief that we were able to flatten the curve and prevent our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed, to the tragic and unexpected death of a Harborview nurse who was recovering from being hospitalized with COVID-19. That loss of a colleague had a tremendous impact on all of us and reinforced the heroic commitment of our frontline staff.
What are some critical considerations as we look to the future?
Going forward, it’s going to be about balancing how we manage and care for patients with COVID-19 and prepare for a potential surge while continuing to provide non-COVID-19 care. Telehealth will play an important role; during the pandemic, we went from roughly 200 telehealth visits per month to over 30,000 per month.
How has COVID-19 changed the way we view access and equity issues in healthcare?
It has further magnified the healthcare disparities in our community that disproportionately affect communities of color. Unfortunately, medicine has a long history of racism, and it remains a challenge in our institution. Our new Office of Healthcare Equity, led by Paula Houston (see A Lethal Inequity), will help us coordinate our equity, diversity and inclusion work across UW Medicine.
How have donors helped with our COVID-19 efforts? How can they continue to help?
The outpouring of generosity from our community and donors has been incredible. But COVID-19 has had a tremendous financial impact on UW Medicine, and we need your ongoing support to help us continue to lead our local, regional and national
Help us save lives and stop COVID-19 with a gift to the UW Medicine Emergency Response Fund today.
Timothy H. Dellit, Fel. ’03, is the chief medical officer of UW Medicine and the president of UW Physicians.