Ballad Health “leaning in” to Coronavirus response

(L-R) Dr. Amit Vashist, Alan Levine and Jamie Swift address the media.

Officials with Ballad Health spent a good deal of time last week coordinating with individuals and organizations around the region, from county health departments to school administrators to EMS teams to elected officials to the media, regarding plans for Coronavirus response. “This is obviously an issue on top of everyone’s mind and that’s no different for us at Ballad Health,” said Ballad Health Executive Chairman, President and CEO Alan Levine. “We’re leaning into this quite seriously.

Levine, Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Amit Vashist and Corporate Director of Infection Prevention Jamie Swift met with reporters March 4 at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport.

It was important that the health system reach out to residents of the region through the media, Levine said, because allowing misinformation and bad advice to spread can be harmful to the population as a whole and to individuals who may feel panicked by bad information.

“Never once has panic helped solve problems,” Levine said. “There’s nothing positive about hysteria or panic. It leads people to make irrational decisions that are not necessarily good for them or others.”

As for steps residents of the region can take to minimize their potential for exposure, the Ballad professionals made the same recommendations heard elsewhere.

“If you have symptoms,” Levine said, “the best thing you can do is self-isolate. If you’re sick enough that you feel you need to see a doctor, call your physician. Let them know you’re coming so they can be prepared.”

“We are concerned with protecting the healthcare workforce,” Levine said. “It is of paramount importance, not just for Ballad Health, but for everyone, that our healthcare workforce is protected. We don’t just need them to be there to care for patients with the flu or the Coronavirus. We also need them to keep caring for all the other patients who are still counting on us to provide services.”

“The thing people can do to help the health system be most prepared is to be vigilant. Do everything you can to prevent yourself from becoming exposed – hand-washing – all those things the health department has advised – really do help slow the spread.”

Vashist told reporters they could sum up the average citizen’s best courses of action with six words: “‘Identify, isolate, prepare,’ and ‘do not panic.’”

Swift added that as part of preparation, individuals should ask themselves if they have what they need, “to make it through a couple of weeks – those canned goods, those paper goods – we’re not saying run out and spend your entire paycheck preparing for the worst. We are saying, ‘every time you go to the store, maybe pick up a few extra items.’”

“None of us can predict where this thing is going to go,” Levine said. “But we are trying to make sure we are prepared for any type of currents. The reality is, you can have a good plan, but because this is novel, because this is new, we don’t exactly know what all to expect. So, we’re trying to prepare for every possible contingency.”


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