A team from the largest for-profit health care provider in New York, once the scene of a grim battle against the coronavirus in which tens of thousands died, has just wrapped up a fact-finding mission here which they said would lead to greater collaboration between them and their public health care counterparts here.
Director of Global Health at Northwell Health, Eric Cioe-Pena, along with one of his administrators, three doctors and two Intensive Care Unit nurses toured the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the COVID-19 treatment facility at Harrison Point.
With over 80,000 employees, 23 hospitals, 1,500 clinics and doctors offices, Northwell Health has treated “more COVID-19 patients in the United States than any other”, Pena said.
He explained that the visit to Barbados, now experiencing its worst wave of COVID-19 cases, was several months in the making after discussions with a Barbadian diplomat and Prime Minister Mia Mottley in New York but recent developments made it more urgent.
Pena said: “A few months ago, Barbados’ Consul-General in New York, Mackie Holder, had arranged a meeting between us and the leadership of the University of the West Indies, along with the Executive Director of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland. He asked us whether we would be interested in visiting Barbados and consulting with UWI and the Government, so that initiated the thought of this visit.
“Then last Friday, we met Prime Minister Mia Mottley when she was in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly, and we gave her a tour of one of our free-standing Accident and Emergency departments.
“We told her about some of the advances we had made during COVID in terms of telemedicine, in terms of using specialty care concentrated at one hospital to serve our entire system of 23 hospitals, so she invited us to see whether we could assist with the COVID surges in Barbados and for a preliminary evaluation of the health care system at the hospital, polyclinics and 24-hour urgent care facilities to see if the lessons we learned from our COVID situation in New York could help improve the health care situation in Barbados.”
The private health care administrator, who is also an emergency physician, spoke of some of the stresses doctors, nurses and other health care providers have experienced over the past 18 months, and how they could find some measure of relief as the pandemic continues.
“We have been fighting COVID for over 18 months now, and we are very ready to see this pandemic come to an end,” said Pena. “There is a lot of energy among our members to help other countries stop COVID in its tracks, and we are willing to make any effort to remind health care workers it is not a hopeless situation; that even in the midst of a surge there is hope and they are the heroes on the frontlines doing the good work, and they need the breaks and recognition so they can continue doing their work.
“Even though our trip is short, we do expect we can relieve some of our colleagues at Harrison Point, give them a bit of rest so they can catch their breath, then work together on building out systems and structures and relieve some of the burdens COVID has placed on both our health systems.”
Pena said ultimately they hope to be in a position where both parties can assist each other in a more meaningful way.
“I believe we clearly understand the work ahead of us, but we need the political will on both sides to cement the relationship and work out details,” said the health care administrator. “I do believe there is great potential for a long and beneficial relationship between Northwell, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Government of Barbados.” (DH/QEH)