MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — At his annual presentation to the Middleburg Heights Chamber of Commerce, Southwest General Health System President and CEO Bill Young praised both the care his employees have provided during the pandemic, as well as the unprecedented cooperation that emerged between area hospitals.

His presentation to the chamber last year focused on the rising cost of health care, he recalled, “but little did we realize at that time the biggest disrupter was going to be the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“It really has consumed our lives,” Young said during the April 8 Zoom meeting. “It pretty much dominated everything we did.”

The hospital went into shutdown mode on March 18, 2020. Only two days later, Southwest General received its first COVID-19 patient.

“We were very, very fortunate to have a couple of infectious disease doctors that were really staying on top of this situation and looking at the proper treatment protocols,” Young said. “We were learning on the fly and making adjustments. Treatments evolved very quickly.”

The hospital reopened May 1 to nonessential surgeries and outpatient procedures, followed by a full surgical reopening on June 2.

To date, the hospital has treated more than 3,800 people for COVID-19. Nearly 300 employees contracted the disease, but Young emphasized that “most of them acquired it out in the community.” The hospital reported 139 patient deaths due to COVID-19.

Local hospitals functioning as competitors under normal circumstances became problem-solving collaborators and daily sources of insight.

“This is the first time I can ever remember in Cleveland that the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth all worked together for the good of the community. And we’re still working together,” Young said.

“We’re always going to be rivals, but the reality is, at the end of the day, we need to work together for the benefit of everybody.”

He expressed appreciation to Southwest General’s employees for “their teamwork and support for each other … and ability to adjust quickly.”

“All through this time, the quality, safety and care we delivered was just outstanding,” Young said, going on to thank everyone who helped his staff and employees to withstand an exhausting, stressful situation.

“The people in our community were tremendous,” Young said, sharing his thanks for the uplifting car parade, meal deliveries, flowers and donated supplies.

“To see the number of people who came out to support us … was very overwhelming. It really helped us get through this.”

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