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Dr. Jeff Balser on VUMC’s ongoing commitment to its people and the needs of our community

Apr. 10, 2020, 9:34 AM


Hi, everyone.

It’s been just over a month since the first reported case of COVID-19 in our region. And while there is a significant road ahead of us, I want to take a moment to share my gratitude for each and every one of you. I’ve heard many wonderful stories about the people of VUMC coming together to support our patients, our communities and each other.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

And I can hardly turn on the TV these days without seeing one of our experts sharing about the incredible work happening here. We are leaders in the COVID response locally, nationally and globally.

We are strong and well-equipped for the storm in front of us. Thanks to your efforts, our PPE and ventilator supplies have grown and are sufficient for the cases we see coming. Countless numbers of clinical programs have worked with patients to delay and reschedule care where possible, creating both the equipment and staffing necessary to handle growing numbers of COVID patients.

We are not furloughing staff — and have no plans to do so. In fact, we’re doing quite the opposite — redeploying hundreds of people in new roles to assist inpatient areas, raising pay for our front-line nurses and hiring hundreds more. We are committed to supporting our people at VUMC, and to being capable and strong so we can meet the needs of Nashville and the Middle Tennessee region.

To continue as much care as possible, incredibly, we’ve moved over 33,000 visits to telehealth in the past few weeks — that’s nearly 3,000 per day. Thank you for accomplishing a sea change in how we can communicate with, and care for, patients with all kinds of conditions.

To date, having evaluated over 30,000 people and diagnosed COVID-19 in over 1,200 people in our assessment centers, we are now treating about 20-30 people as inpatients. We’ve admitted almost 70 since the pandemic started. We have had two tragic deaths at VUMC. However, the vast majority are doing well, and many have gone home to recover. Through extraordinary dedication and skill, our clinical teams are keeping survival rates very high.

The latest modeling projections do suggest that in Middle Tennessee we are flattening the curve, meaning we won’t be overwhelmed with too many patients all at once. However, flattening the curve means patients still come — just spread over a longer period of time. So VUMC will be doing more COVID care in the coming weeks, and it is very likely the numbers will be higher than we are seeing now.

If we keep up the Safer at Home measures now in place, our patient care volumes should be manageable. So please, keep sheltering at home as much as possible and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.

For now, stay strong and keep doing what you’re doing. It is working.

We’ll talk again soon.

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