Guest Columnist

Collaborative response to COVID-19 benefits the region

The Physicians' Clinic of Iowa medical pavilion is seen at the intersection of 10th Street SE and 2nd Avenue SE in the h
The Physicians' Clinic of Iowa medical pavilion is seen at the intersection of 10th Street SE and 2nd Avenue SE in the heart of the Med Quarter in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Healthcare leaders in Cedar Rapids have a history of working together for the greater good of our region and our community. In 2011, they collaborated to create the MedQuarter Regional Medical District. Now, nearly ten years later, Mercy Medical Center, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa, UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s Hospital and Surgery Center Cedar Rapids have collaborated once again for the greater good.

On March 17, in preparation for the anticipated surge of coronavirus cases, these local health leaders proactively agreed, together, to suspend all nonemergent, elective surgeries in each of their respective institutions. This action was taken a full week before Gov. Kim Reynolds’ statewide mandate. Their combined foresight to preserve capacity, manpower, equipment and supplies to treat Eastern Iowans affected by the COVID-19 virus will cause inconvenience and a hardship for many, yet is commendable as we see the medical issues being experienced in Spain, New York and other ‘hot spots,’ which foreshadow a coming need here.

In taking this action each of these organizations and their employees will experience significant financial loss until the imminent threat has passed. We owe a debt of gratitude to these organizations. With the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout our nation, we all benefit from health care institutions willing to sacrifice their short-term financial health in order to protect the collective long-term health of our community.

These institutions are made up of highly trained, highly skilled medical professionals at all levels — from the emergency room clinicians and surgeons to the nurses and those who work behind the scenes. Over the last five years I have had the opportunity to work closely with many of these individuals and I can say that I am constantly impressed by the dedication, focus and professionalism that they exhibit, day in and day out. When I present to groups in our community about the creation, purpose and goals of the MedQuarter Regional Medical District, I always comment that we have a great medical community with some of the highest quality and lowest cost care. We don’t know how good we have it here until we need health care services.

While coronavirus is a vastly different challenge from the 2008 floods that destroyed parts of Cedar Rapids, there are still some parallels that can be made to our experience today. During flood recovery, city leaders were focused on making sure the core of our city would be dynamic and thriving. There is no doubt that leaders from Mercy Medical Center, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa and UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s Hospital made difficult short-term decisions, to focus on the long-term purpose of keeping our local population dynamic and thriving as well.

Not only did these local health institutions collaboratively create a Medical District in Cedar Rapids, but since then each has invested millions of dollars into their campuses, while the MedQ promotes and enhances the District in order to attract more visitors, patients and businesses.

Like many of you, I’m sheltering at home and writing this message as I track reports on COVID-19, while our partners in the MedQuarter are on the front lines fighting for us all. We will not know for quite some time COVID-19’s total impact on our lives. But what we do know is that actions taken now by our health care leaders coming together will benefit us all today and in the future. Together is the only way we will all get through this.

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Please take the opportunity to thank all our health care and essential workers for their foresight and selfless commitment to the health and well-being of our community and region.

Phil Wasta is the executive director of the MedQuarter Regional Medical District in Cedar Rapids.

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