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  1. Opinion

How Tampa General is working collaboratively to combat virus | John Couris

The hospital is working with others to develop new testing materials and ramp up testing, the CEO writes.

As CEO of Tampa General Hospital, I witness tireless dedication, empathy, compassion and bravery every single day. I see it from physicians, nurses, my administrative team and from the folks in patient transport, dining services and all those who selflessly give of themselves through their work at TGH. This statement was just as true two months ago as it is today as my team works heroically to combat COVID-19.

We are all aware of the sobering projections of the rate of infection and potential deaths that will occur in our state from the coronavirus pandemic. As the team leader of TGH, I understand the dangerous realities my team and I will continue to face in the days and weeks ahead. As a husband, father, colleague, friend and human being, I’m humbled by the gravity of the situation, and I worry for us all.

At Tampa General, we are using all of the information available on the virus, how it spreads, what measures can be effective in reducing the spread and what treatments can provide comfort and healing to those suffering. We are leveraging the expertise across the hospital, throughout the community, and around the world to combat this unprecedented pandemic. And based on that information and expertise, we have plans in place, equipment in stock, and practiced scenarios ready to launch, as needed.

This pandemic is not faceless; it is not a medical abstraction. It will continue to impact our communities, our loved ones, our colleagues, our neighbors and our acquaintances. We know that difficult days are ahead of us, and while we’re grappling to understand what it all means, it is natural for us to feel afraid. This virus is powerful and contagious, and it must be taken with absolute seriousness. However, I believe we must not live in fear. Here's why.

The human spirit is resilient beyond all expectation and measure. I experience this resilience every day in our hospital, as patients, families and caregivers courageously rise to meet challenges that they never imagined possible. Make no mistake, we will overcome COVID-19, and we will be stronger, more knowledgeable, more grateful, kinder and more united than ever before.

We will overcome this virus because of the individuals in this country and around the world who are collaborating and leading innovation at an unprecedented rate to meet this pandemic with humanity's collective might. Businesses and institutions that might have once been considered competitors are now joining forces as allies.

In Tampa Bay, the spirit of collaboration is fueling extraordinary progress every single day. We saw that spirit in last week’s rollout of Hillsborough’s first drive-through testing site at Raymond James Stadium. This launch represented a joint effort by Tampa General Hospital, BayCare, AdventHealth, HCA Healthcare, the state, county and city and other government entities. We saw it again with the recent announcement that USF Health, Tampa General Hospital, Northwell Health, and Formlabs 3D had envisioned, designed, produced and tested a 3D-printed nasal swab to help address emergency shortages of COVID-19 testing materials and are now freely sharing that groundbreaking design with other institutions around the world. Tampa General and the many other exceptional health care institutions across Tampa Bay and the region will continue to work together tirelessly to bring the world-class care our community has come to expect in the days, weeks, and months ahead. We can feel humbled by the journey ahead of us, mindful of our impact on others, and grateful for those working around the clock to heal the sick and save lives, but let’s refuse to give in to the fear that threatens to consume us.

Whether you are combating this virus by retreating indoors and pausing social interactions, or you’re a healthcare worker suiting up for the frontlines of this pandemic, let us recognize and remember that our true motivating force is not fear, but love, compassion, and gratitude. We must do what we can – perhaps more than we thought we could – to flatten the curve out of love and deep compassion for the vulnerable, our friends, our neighbors, our family, and ourselves. Now is the time to let love and kindness be the antidote to fear because we will fight this together, and we will beat this together.

John Couris is the president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital.

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