Standing Strong During a Medical Crisis
May 14, 2020
Freeman CEO Applauds Employees Responsiveness during Pandemic
Joplin, Mo – The nation and world are now recognizing healthcare workers as heroes, but at Freeman Health System we know that heroism starts the minute someone puts on a healthcare badge for the first time.
“Choosing a career in healthcare is a calling to something deeper and more meaningful than words can express,” says Paula Baker, President and Chief Executive Officer.
The Freeman team mobilized swiftly to prepare for what would become a worldwide pandemic, with administrators forming an incident command committee that targeted potential staffing challenges, sought every resource possible to purchase personal protection equipment and aligned to monitor the ever-changing dynamics of the novel coronavirus disease on a daily basis.
Responding to possible disaster is the nature of a healthcare workers job. “It’s a noble pursuit that oftentimes requires you to pour the best of yourself out for the betterment of others,” Baker says. “It requires you to be present for life’s most defining moments and it requires you to share in the suffering that comes part and parcel with our industry.”
Baker credits the excellence of employees’ work with affording the organization the ability to navigate these uncertain times. “While we haven’t been immune to the challenges of decreased volumes, we have been able to mitigate the effect each employee has felt,” says Baker. She says that is possible because of a solid and stable foundation built by the Freeman Family that pays dividends today.
That stability has allowed Freeman to:
- Implement workforce realignment with no layoffs or position eliminations
- Maintain health benefits
- Continue fully funding retirement plans
- Provide eligible employees with a pay increase in April
- Reward eligible employees with an annual thank-you bonus
- Offer PTO hours advance to qualified employees
- Establish an Employee Relief Fund with monetary relief for Freeman family members experiencing hardships due to recent events
- Establish a purchasing site for groceries for all staff in our cafeteria that provides hard-to-find commodities, such as toilet paper, flour, yeast, fresh vegetables, milk, eggs and many other items that could be picked up without having to stop at a store on the way home from work
- Establish a “Grab-and-Go” site in the cafeteria for staff to purchase trays of already prepared family meals, such as enchiladas, meatloaf, chicken wings and other tasty options to heat up at home
- Quickly and efficiently establish telehealth services for most, if not all, of Freeman’s more than 70 physician offices and clinics, so patients can get the healthcare they need without exposing themselves to undue risk
- Establish drive-up, curbside service at QuickMeds® Pharmacy, where staff bring prescriptions to the patient’s car
- Add 39 new hires who went through new employee orientation this week
In addition, both physical and emotional concerns about COVID-19 were also addressed daily with a live news briefing involving hospital leadership, physicians and mental health counselors. Baker also personally sent out emails to all staff at least three times a week with updates and assurances that “we would all come through this stronger than ever.” Freeman’s chief human resource officer sent direct, detailed email communication to all 4,500 employees as well, thanking staff on the front line by letting them know Freeman has their backs and providing further encouragement. Additionally, while Freeman staff served the community through the COVID Call Center and drive-thru test site from its implementation, both now continue to operate on the Freeman campus.
Baker adds, “It’s important to note that other diseases (than COVID-19) and medical conditions do not take a vacation because of this pandemic – all medical conditions are important, and we encourage patients to stay on top of their health. Freeman Health System is fully operational and ready to provide any kind of healthcare services patients need.”
“Our community is strong and resilient – together we will meet these challenges head-on,” Baker continues. “While we were prepared for an influx, we did not see the large numbers of patients with COVID-19 that were seen in other areas of the country. Providing healthcare to our community is an incredible responsibility, and I applaud our team of caregivers for handling this pandemic response with grace, skill and compassion. I’m proud to work with the best team in healthcare.”
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2019, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2019. With more than 300 physicians on staff representing more than 70 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.