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Q&A With Lawrence General Hospital’s President and CEO

Deborah J. Wilson talks testing, supplies, and how Lawrence’s hospital has been handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Editor’s note: The article was written in mid-April and printed in our May 2020 issue.

President and CEO of Lawrence General Hospital

Deborah J. Wilson, the recently named president and CEO of Lawrence General Hospital, leads a major acute care hospital that’s been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospital’s Emergency Department sees 67,000 visits a year—more patients than any other North Shore hospital. Wilson served as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Lawrence General prior to being named CEO. She speaks about how the team has adapted swiftly to the demands of the COVID-19 health crisis.

What is the hospital most in need of?

It’s been heartwarming to see so many people reaching out to offer supplies and words of encouragement. The fact is, the immediate needs of our front-line staff can change by the hour during times of pandemic. What we need today in mid-April will be different than what we need in mid-May, so we’re maintaining an updated list on our website. One factor that won’t change is our need to stay financially sustainable in order to meet the healthcare needs of the communities we serve, so it’s critical high Medicaid hospitals like ours receive enhanced commercial insurance and governmental payer reimbursement soon.

How are doctors and nurses coping with the pandemic?

I’m proud of the courage and professionalism of each and every one of the men and women who work at Lawrence General. The team has been remarkable from day one of the COVID-19 crisis. As the region’s major acute care hospital, our experienced doctors and nurses are regularly caring for patients with the most critical of illnesses and injuries. They are no strangers to managing through a crisis. The team is heroically facing the demands of coronavirus head on and they continue to show our community the value and critical importance of Lawrence General Hospital.

How has the hospital changed its procedures?

Proactively. Early on in the fight against COVID-19, we began a number of initiatives to test patients and to temporarily expand critical care capacity to care for the growing number of coronavirus patients requiring medical and intensive care. Our priority was meeting our community’s healthcare needs while keeping our staff safe and supported throughout the pandemic. The highly trained Lawrence General team was prepared, and is highly focused, incredibly compassionate, and ready to manage through a global health crisis.

How are you handling testing? 

Early on in the pandemic, we established the region’s first 24/7 coronavirus community hotline staffed by nurses, followed soon after by our drive through testing site. By mid-April, we tested more than 2,000 people in the community. We will continue to offer testing, which will likely ramp up as guidelines expand.

How are you handling the cases of COVID-19?

We had been actively preparing for a surge in coronavirus patients since March. Like all healthcare institutions, we postponed elective procedures and expanded our intensive care capabilities. We redeployed nurses from areas focused on elective volume to medical and critical care areas. We created teams of nurses and doctors to focus on the specific care needs of COVID-19 patients. The dedicated staff at Lawrence General has the incredible depth of medical experience required to provide exactly the right medical care, and to be able to do it with incredible professionalism and compassion.

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