‘Seize the opportunity’; Forsyth Medical Center COO talks about current state of COVID-19 pandemic

Newsmakers

Not a day goes by when the latest local developments regarding COVID-19 aren’t top of mind for Chad Setliff. Be it hospital admissions, staffing, testing, or vaccines he’s there considering and making key decisions. Setliff is the president and chief operating officer of the Forsyth Medical Center (the Piedmont Triad’s largest hospital in terms of number of beds) as well as the other Novant Health facilities in the Winston-Salem market. These include medical centers in Kernersville, Thomasville and Clemmons. He oversees 12,000 employees.

I first spoke with Setliff in April of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. Here’s the text of our most recent conversation (edited for brevity):

Neill

“Where are we locally in the COVID battle right now especially considering we’re about a month now from the big Christmas/New Years holiday period?”

Chad Setliff/President & COO, Novant Health Winston-Salem Market

“Right now, I would say we’re right at the peak. And for the last several weeks, we’ve seen the highest levels we’ve seen in terms of hospital admissions. The good news is that it does look like it’s starting to stabilize. Over the last seven days, we’ve seen a flattening of our hospital admissions. But we still remain in a very urgent state as it relates to managing the hospital capacity. We are seeing some encouraging trends in the community as it relates to tests. The positivity test rate went from 26% down to about 18% over the last several days. So that is very encouraging.”

Neill

“Just yesterday we did a story on a Forsyth Medical Center nurse who came out of retirement to help her colleagues there at the medical center, most specifically putting shots in the arms of people. Given that, I’m wondering have you had enough staff members to handle this surge?”

Chad Setliff

“We’ve had over 2,500 team members that have come and volunteered outside of the hospital whether it’s retired nurses that are currently working outside the hospital, that have come back to the bedsides. That has allowed us to really meet our duty of serving the community during this pandemic. And it’s been nothing short of remarkable, and we have not seen any deficits as it relates to serving our patients.”

Neill

“We have video of the very first patient getting her vaccine. I believe she was in Clemmons. And then just last week you opened the mass vaccine clinic at the Old Hanes Mall Sears Store capable of vaccinating some 7,000 people a day. I’m aware Novant purchased that Sears store a few years back. I was wondering if you can remind everyone of why you did that, and what was the original purpose for that Sears store prior to the pandemic?”

Chad Setliff

“We purchased Sears several years ago with the anticipation of using it for growth and strategy initiatives since it’s so close in proximity to our main hospital campus here at Forsyth Medical Center. Little did we know we could use it for a vaccination site several years later in a pandemic.”

Neill

“(In terms of vaccines) how close is the number of doses that you’re getting from the state to the number of doses you’re capable of injecting into people’s arms? And I would assume you’d certainly want those two numbers to be close.”

Chad Setliff

“Right now, we’re receiving about 7,000 a week. We’d like to do 7,000 a day.”

Neill

“So you’re not where you need to be?”

Chad Setliff

“We’re not. But we are proud of the fact that every single dose we’ve gotten right now, we continue to administer effectively. We actually have appointments booked out all the way through May. It doesn’t mean those are the only appointments we have. But we’ve been very deliberate about when we schedule them, know that we have the allocation and as we get more allocation, we open those appointments. So today, we haven’t had to cancel any dose to that precise approach that we’re taking with our appointments.”

Neill

“What can people who are watching this interview right now to help you and your team members the most?”

Chad Setliff

“I would highly encourage people to seize the opportunity when they have access to the vaccine as we roll it out in their communities and as appointments become available. Our demand in the hospital is related to the prevalence in the community, which the vaccine can help with. And I think together we all can get through this in a very quick and rapid fashion.”

For more information on Novant Health’s response to COVID-19 (including testing and vaccines), click here.

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