Wake Forest Baptist Health CEO Dr. Julie Freischlag discusses coronavirus outbreak

Newsmakers

Dr. Julie Freischlag is facing the coronavirus pandemic from several different fronts:

She’s a medical doctor, actually a world-renowned vascular surgeon.

She’s an educator: dean of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

She’s an administrator: the chief executive officer of the Piedmont Triad’s largest employer and economic engine, the 20,000-employee strong Wake Forest Baptist Health with facilities in Forsyth, Guilford and other surrounding counties.

Here’s the full text of our coronavirus-related conversation earlier today:

Neill

“How have the last two and a half weeks been for you both personally and professionally? Just to start off with, I would imagine, uh, COVID-19 has just taken over everything that you do?”

Dr Freischlag

“Absolutely. It’s been a, we’ve been fortunate that in our region we’ve had some time to prepare and we haven’t had as many cases, but we’ve had to change everything we’ve done.”

Neill

“What is keeping you up at night? What is your biggest worry, your biggest challenge, your biggest need?”

Dr. Freischlag

“Well, I think the biggest concern I have is, is how to manage a huge workforce of 20,000 people that run this amazing healthcare system of wake forest. Have to tell them we’ve actually asked a lot of them to stop working in their normal way. And I think it’s really hard also for everyone to be home and watching TV and seeing what’s happening in many of the other cities and the devastation. I have a friend that actually got COVID at 19, he’s a surgeon and had to be admitted in New York and he just went home on oxygen and texting him every day just showed me how scary it is. Um, how sick you feel and, and he didn’t have to be intubated, but he was sick.”

Neill

“How worried are you that Wake Forest Baptist could become overwhelmed to the point that your doctors will have to make some really tough decisions?”

Dr. Freischlag

“Well, we, we worry that could happen. I think we’ve seen a lot of excellent social distancing over the last two weeks in our region. Uh, and we do have incredible palliative care group that works here all the time because we see patients that are in trauma and patients that have transplant and patients that have end of life issues all the time. So our palliative of care group is, is very skilled or ethic group is very skilled and we’re prepared to have those conversations even though it’s going to be really hard.”

Neill

“Ventilators and PPE: do you have enough? Will you have enough?”

Dr. Freischlag

“Well, right now because our numbers are low, we have enough, we publish actually a report every day of our PPE and where it’s, uh, how much we have and how many days we’ve had so much outpouring of PPE from our community in our region. Uh, not only those that we can use in the hospital, but also handmade ones that we can use if we decide as a person you want to wear a mask out and about. Um, so right now we’re good with that and we have capacity in our ICU, but again, our numbers are low right now.”

Neill

“The testing, do you have enough and how is that going?”

Dr. Freischlag

“Yeah, well we actually don’t have enough testing week or we don’t have the reagents to self to test everyone. So we are assessing people for symptoms and then if possible, our inpatients, actually we’ve been able to use some overnight testing through, uh, atrium down in Charlotte. And so they are doing some overnight testing for us, but we still are waiting for appropriate region re-agents to do more testing here. So we assess patients for symptoms and if we feel that that’s appropriate.”

Neill

“What is your big message you would like to send out to my viewers today?”

Dr. Freischlag

“Well, I would tell everyone to stay at home, stay at home. Um, be mindful of those around you so that you stay healthy. I also think we need to keep a bit of hope. You know, we, we let our Moravian star, uh, this week that usually what we like during the holiday seasons, but it was actually suggested by many that we’d like that. Uh, so we can see the light, the hope and the peace.”

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