June 25, 2020

Mercy interim CEO and president and CEO of Aultman Health Foundation pen joint editorial about COVID-19 response

Mercy Medical Center interim CEO Tom Strauss and Aultman Health Foundation President and CEO Ed Roth authored a special joint editorial published by The Canton Repository that describes how they each have strengthened their responses to COVID-19. It details the "dynamic, transparent and highly effective partnership" formed between Mercy and Aultman to meet the unique health care needs of the Canton community during the current pandemic.

The full text of the joint editorial is below or available here.

Commentary: Mercy, Aultman strengthen COVID-19 response

By Ed Roth and Tom Strauss, Special to The Canton Repository

In the past three months, our vocabulary, among other things, has changed. As COVID-19 has spread around the world and touched Stark County with more than 800 cases, words and phrases like flatten the curve, social distancing, novel coronavirus, PPE, community spread, self-quarantine, N95 masks and remdesivir have become part of our daily conversation.

Another word that we’ve heard a lot is unprecedented. It’s been used at, well, unprecedented levels, to describe our new reality — working from home, online learning from kindergarten to college, Zoom meetings to stay connected with family and friends, wearing masks in public, unemployment at record highs and the abrupt cancellation of sports seasons from T-ball through professional levels.

COVID-19 is most likely the biggest challenge we will ever face, as individuals, as a society and as an industry. To beat this deadly, contagious virus, it will take collaborative — and unprecedented — efforts on all fronts.

One hundred days ago, it would have been hard to imagine that Stark County’s two leading hospitals, both with rich, 100-year-plus traditions of caring for the health needs of the community, would join forces. But that’s what’s happened — and it’s been a game-changer.

Mercy Medical Center and Aultman Hospital, health care systems based on opposite sides of I-77, have formed a dynamic, transparent and highly effective partnership to meet the never-before-seen health care needs of our community and ensure the safety and wellbeing of our health care workers.

From the early days of the pandemic, senior leadership teams from both hospitals have been in constant contact, sharing not only equipment such as PPE and ventilators when necessary, but also data and information related to COVID-19, and brainstorming ways to keep the greater community safe while caring for patients and protecting our frontline workers within the walls of our hospitals.

Continued communication has proven crucial during this fluid situation. Our senior leadership teams have scheduled, weekly phone conversations on which we look at the big picture, discuss what’s working — and not working — in our respective hospitals, make adjustments and plan our next steps in our shared mission to provide exceptional care, and keep the community informed and safe during the COVID-19 crisis.

Using one voice, we’ve been able to provide reassurance to the community with consistent and clear information about the pandemic and how it impacts our region.

In April, we were both honored to participate in a sold-out webinar hosted by The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and provide local business leaders with an update on the current health care response and future planning efforts for Stark County as it relates to COVID-19.

This week, both hospitals participated in a locally based five-part Health Week. Normally, each health care system would be assigned individual segments during the event. This year, leaders and health care professionals from Aultman and Mercy were together, providing updates and information on the COVID-19 crisis in Stark County.

As Ohio begins to reopen non-essential businesses and activities, our hospitals continue to be on the frontline, working together to serve the community in a world where the spread of COVID-19 continues to be a concern.

We are confident, because of our coordinated planning, protocol and precautions, that community members will be safe when seeking care and services at our hospitals and facilities. We are following enhanced sanitizing processes for treatment rooms, waiting rooms and public areas that include using our state-of-the-art Xenex germ-busting robots.

Even during a pandemic, we still have healthy people who get an illness and need to go to the emergency room, and of course, heart attacks, strokes and accidents happen. Please don’t let fear of contracting COVID-19 stop you from seeking medical care in your time of need, whether it be urgent care or routine appointments such as mammograms and annual physicals.

Be assured that safety measures will be followed at both Aultman and Mercy. Patients must wear masks, be screened for COVID-19 and practice social distancing at every appointment. Your health care professionals will work with your local public health department to determine if you need to be tested. Doctors and patients will use telehealth whenever possible instead of in-person visits. Patients can help prevent the spread of disease by practicing good hand hygiene and coming to appointments alone, if possible.

We are proud of Canton’s frontline heroes and leadership teams who continue to care for and make decisions based on the best interests of our community during the pandemic. We’re also grateful for the unprecedented collaboration between our hospital systems that has opened lines of communication, helped to disseminate important information and protocol to the community and strengthened our response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Ed Roth is President and CEO of Aultman Health Foundation.

Tom Strauss is the Interim President and CEO of Mercy Medical Center, which is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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