Spotlight On: Audrey Meyers, President & CEO, Valley Health System

Spotlight On: Audrey Meyers, President & CEO, Valley Health System

2021-12-17T19:08:09-05:00December 17th, 2021|Healthcare & Life Sciences, North & Central Jersey, Spotlight On|

Valley Health System2 min read December 2021 — In a conversation with Invest:, President and CEO Audrey Meyers of Valley Health System detailed the challenges and opportunities faced throughout the pandemic. She shared how hospital designs have shifted because of the pandemic, the sustainability initiatives that have been implemented in the hospital and the unique work culture that attracts and retains talent to Valley Health System.

What challenges did you overcome during the pandemic?

 Our experience at the start of the pandemic had serious implications for the way we delivered care. As was the case in most hospitals, as the number of patients with COVID-19 began to climb, it quickly became clear that we did not have enough critical care beds and negative pressure rooms to accommodate these patients. Among our innovations was to establish critical care beds in different areas of the hospital and to retrofit 100 rooms to serve as negative pressure rooms. 

We had a high volume of patients in 2020, but we weathered the storm, and were able to swiftly administer the vaccine near the end of the year. We emphasized the importance of the vaccination, and that truly was the way forward. We distributed approximately 180,000 vaccines despite experiencing inconsistent supplies and delivery of the vaccines early on in the vaccine distribution program.

We also created Care After COVID, a multidisciplinary program specifically designed to assist individuals struggling with lingering symptoms associated with COVID-19. The program coordinates the services of a multidisciplinary medical team that can address long-term complications of COVID-19 infection. These include specialists in the areas of behavioral health, cardiology, otolaryngology (ear nose and throat), neurology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, primary care, pulmonology, and obstetrics. Referrals to specialists are based on an initial evaluation and assessment of each patient’s individual needs.

How will the design of hospitals be impacted by the pandemic?

Our experience treating patients during a pandemic significantly influenced the design of our new hospital currently under construction in Paramus. That facility, scheduled to open at the end of 2023, will offer all single-patients rooms with negative pressure capability and a flexible design that enables the space to be adapted to changing patient care needs. Unfortunately, infectious diseases, like COVID-19, are something we will have to learn to live with and to address. Our goal is to build a hospital that will allow us to be responsive to the community and their healthcare needs as they arise.

What significant projects are underway?

Our most significant project is the new campus we’re developing in Paramus, a town right next door to our current location in Ridgewood. We’ve been acquiring property to build this new hospital campus, which amounts to 40 acres, close to three times the size of our current campus in Ridgewood.

The Valley Hospital in Paramus will be the centerpiece of Valley’s new health and wellness destination. The new campus will also include the Luckow Pavilion, which houses Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care and the George R. Jaqua Same Day Services Center; and a medical office building, home to Women’s and Children’s outpatient services.  

The Valley Hospital in Paramus has been designed with the needs of patients and families as the top priority, featuring single-patient rooms and a vastly expanded Emergency Department, and will incorporate the latest in healthcare, while retaining Valley’s renowned personal touch and emphasis on compassionate care.

It is an $800 million project, which is significant in the healthcare arena as well as in the realm of construction. It is a major project that will require hundreds of construction workers to move it along to completion. This effort is one that has engaged the organization as a whole, which reflects the teamwork necessary to take on such a goal, an aspect of the project of which I am particularly proud.

How have you been impacted by the labor shortage?

Some people have made the decision to retire, but overall we are fortunate to have significant longevity among our staff. Many of us, myself included, continue to choose Valley because of the great work environment, the care that is provided to patients, and more. At orientation sessions, I always ask new employees what attracted them to Valley in the first place. I often hear that they had received care from us, had delivered their baby with us, or had a loved one who received care from us. They recognized the quality of care provided by Valley. Moreover, friends and family work here as well, and they often encourage potential talent to come work with us.

Recruitment does, however, have its challenges. We need to encourage more individuals to enter healthcare and we do this by creating programs in collaboration with high schools and colleges. We encourage students to consider a career in healthcare when in high school. At the collegiate level, we offer opportunities for students to work with us. We believe that education is important to meet the challenges with staffing, and we need to remain abreast of the issue. Once we attract someone to our organization, it is crucial that we onboard and support them in the right way so that they will continue to make Valley their employer of choice

How can hospitals become more sustainable?

This is something to which we have paid significant attention, and that is important to me, personally. 

Health systems, particularly hospitals, are among the highest producers of waste. It’s important for the hospital industry to care about the environment and do everything within our power to reduce our materials usage, carbon footprint and waste. At Valley, we have made a significant commitment to reducing waste. Our efforts have been recognized nationally. In 2019, Valley took home national honors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a recipient of the WasteWise award. Each year the EPA recognizes WasteWise partners in various categories who report the best year-over-year overall improvement in waste prevention and recycling activities. The Valley Hospital was recognized as the Non-Profit Organization Partner of the Year for diverting more than 830,554 pounds of material and increasing its single-stream recycling by 10 tons with improved access to bins, the creation of a sort center, and an increasing focus on employee education and engagement. 

In 2021, for a sixth consecutive year, The Valley Hospital received national accolades for its achievements and innovation in health care sustainability from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care. Valley received the Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Award for its ongoing commitment to improving its environmental performance and efforts to build sustainability into the hospital’s operations. 

We also house honey bee hives on our roofs, offer charging stations for electric vehicles, and maintain a garden that allows us to locally source our food, minimizing the need for a constant stream of delivery trucks. We have a great team that helps us in those efforts. We’re doing our best to be sensitive to the issue and in being as sustainable as possible.

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