By: Sara Warden
2 Min read November 2020 — As a county that is situated in the heart of hurricane territory, Miami-Dade’s first responders are well-versed in dealing with crises. When COVID-19 struck, it was little surprise that the healthcare community quickly adapted and even innovated their way through the pandemic.
COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Florida, with the total rounding out at almost 1 million for the state, and around a quarter of new cases are emerging in Miami-Dade County. The first challenge for the healthcare sector in Miami was setting up comprehensive testing sites. In Miami-Dade, the Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Beach Convention Center and Marlins Park were all turned into testing centers.
According to Steven Marcus, President and CEO of Health Foundation of South Florida, the healthcare system took a proactive approach to testing. “We wanted to make sure that as many people as possible could be tested for the virus,” he told Invest: Miami. “We campaigned to make sure as many people had access to tests and understood the importance of these tests. We conducted an educational outreach so that people understood that this was important not just for themselves but for their families as well. This is one of the innovative ways that we have been focusing on encouraging preventative healthcare during this time.”
Another tough question for Miami-Dade was how to balance healthcare issues with economic concerns as businesses began to struggle under the weight of lockdowns and capacity restrictions. New Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who was sworn in last week after winning the Nov. 3 election, appointed Dr. Peter Paige, the executive vice president of Jackson Health System, as chief medical officer to help the county navigate the crisis. Other priorities for the mayor are reviewing emergency restrictions and possibly imposing a curfew on the county.
And hospitals have had to adapt financially too. Despite increased demand for COVID-related emergency care, a significant portion of revenues from surgery was lost when surgical procedures were prohibited. “We had to limit inpatient surgeries and procedures, which led to revenue losses from the two periods of suspended surgeries to an excess of $100 million,” said Carlos Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health. “But for our hospitals, the focus remained on saving lives during one of this generation’s greatest public health challenges.” The hospital system has been able to access some funding from the CARES Act.
Dealing with an unknown disease such as COVID was challenging for all healthcare systems, and although the virus manifests differently in children, even the Nicklaus Children’s Health System faced issues, President and CEO Matthew Love explained to Invest. “A secondary disease as a result of COVID also emerged called multi-inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. We created the first and I think the only MIS-C unit in the region within our intensive care unit. That was really in response to the medical need to treat these patients separately. We had special equipment, special training. It was a really great opportunity for us to respond to that need for the community.”
When the pandemic struck, healthcare systems were turned on their heads. But adapting and Miami’s community spirit was key. “Nobody in this country knew the impact that COVID-19 would have on the smallest details of our lives,” said Vincent Carrodeguas, president and CEO of Banyan Health. “We are learning every day and there are changes in the safety protocols every day. We now know that we were not pandemic-ready, by any stretch. We had a pandemic master plan, none of which was applicable to this situation, and we had to rewrite the entire manual. Our government and community leaders were thankfully able to do the right thing and I think we should avoid politicizing the situation.”