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Hospitals Say Collaboration Has Been Key Ahead Of RNC

St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is the closest hospital to Downtown. (Tony Ganzer / ideastream)

by Tony Ganzer, ideastream

The start of the Republican National Convention is less than a week away, and residents, delegates, and public officials alike are hoping the event will be relatively peaceful.  The planning for the RNC has gone for months and months, with much attention on policing and security.

But Northeast Ohio’s hospital systems and public health officials have also been busy.

ANDERSON: “It’s really been an incredible time.”

Dr. Michael Anderson is the Chief Medical Officer for University Hospitals.

ANDERSON: “I’m very impressed by collaboration between the major health systems in town. The Cleveland Clinic, St. Vincent Charity, Metrohealth, and UH have been coming together for, goodness, over a year now to do this planning, because we realize providing medical care for the delegates, for the VIPs, for the media, is so important because Cleveland has so much to be proud of for healthcare.”

Not every city that hosts a major event has the resources that Northeast Ohio does, and that was a stumbling block to previous conventions, according to Ed Eckart.  He’s Cleveland’s Department of Public Safety deputy director, and spoke at an RNC preparedness briefing.

ECKART: “I think we’re really blessed here in the city of Cleveland that number one we have a lot of world-renowned systems, but number two they are willing to step up, collaborate, and provide resources.”

One would think having so many top-class health systems in one region might foster an overly competitive environment.

But the Cleveland Clinic’s Chief of Medical Operations Dr. Bob Wyllie agrees that cooperation has been key.

WYLLIE: “The four systems have worked remarkably well together, but this started several years ago with the Ebola…through the RNC.  So I think the hospitals, sure we’re competitive, but from a public health standpoint there are certain things that we need to bring together, and work together on.”

In terms of medical care, there are areas of responsibility for hospital systems, and a central command for plotting logistics.  So because the Clinic normally handles care at the Q and Progressive Field, it’s the go-to system there with first aid, emergency doctors, etc.  UH does the same for FirstEnergy Stadium, and so on. 

Ambulance assignments, hospital assignments, and more complicated logistics go through the command center.

The closest hospital to Downtown, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, is preparing for an uptick in patients, despite the divvying up of responsibilities. 

Joan Ross is the hospital’s COO.

ROSS: “We have done some planning around the possibility that we will receive a fair number of walk-in volume.  So to that end we’ve staffed-up our emergency department, and we also have a fast-track service that’s more for lumps, bumps, and bruises, and we’ve actually extended that to 24/7 with additional staffing. So we are very well prepared.”

St. Vincent also has one of Ohio’s two 24/7 psychiatric emergency rooms, if it’s needed.  Ross says the hospital will be all-hands-on-deck, even with street medics and first aid stations at convention sites.

ROSS: “I think that there may be people that find us on their own, they prefer to come to a hospital, they’re not sure what’s going on, or if a convention-goer has a chronic illness and they need a little bit of a tune-up, they might want to come to a hospital and hence they may find us on their own.”

Metrohealth will be the go-to facility for any trauma cases, but hospital officials declined participating in this story.  A spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the hospital system is working with the City of Cleveland on providing exceptional medical care to RNC visitors. 

City officials also declined an interview request on medical care.

Each hospital official interviewed for this story said they are ramping up staffing, and are prepared to maintain normal hospital operations even in a busy summer month.  They are keeping reserve staffers ready just in case.

Dr. Wyllie from the Clinic says the cooperation between hospitals seen for the RNC is one piece of many collaborations.

WYLLIE: “This is just another step, but yes we’re looking at trauma in the city and how do we manage trauma, we’re looking at creating a new trauma organization and looking at the possibilities there where we would all band together; we’re looking at how we transport patients; we’re looking at mortality in the first year of life; you know all of those things are things which we’re undertaking as a group of hospitals.”

The RNC begins in earnest, July 18.

Tony Ganzer has reported from Phoenix to Cairo, and was the host of 90.3's "All Things Considered." He was previously a correspondent with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, covering issues like Swiss banks, Parliament, and refugees. He earned an M.A. in International Relations (University of Leicester); and a B.Sc. in Journalism (University of Idaho.) He speaks German, and a bit of French.