Column: FirstHealth committed to COVID-19 fight

FirstHealth of the Carolinas CEO Mickey Foster

Opinion column by Mickey Foster • Chief Executive Officer of FirstHealth of the Carolinas • Two weeks ago, I introduced you to a few of the health care heroes I interact with each day, highlighting the remarkable sacrifices they make to help FirstHealth of the Carolinas care for you.  

As we continue to respond to the spread of COVID-19, it feels appropriate to update you on how FirstHealth is working to keep our communities safe while providing critical care.  

I understand it may be scary to read national reports of supply shortages or to see pictures of overflowing intensive care units in some of the hardest hit parts of our country.  

But let me reassure you: FirstHealth is prepared.  

Here’s what I know.  

Our physicians, nurses and staff continue to lead the way, and our resolve is stronger than ever as we focus on our core purpose – To Care for People.  

Thanks in large part to the generous donations from our community, we have the personal protective equipment (PPE) we need and access to more. Furthermore, we placed large orders through multiple vendor sources early on in this crisis, and our clinical teams have implemented appropriate utilization practices to conserve critical PPE. We receive supplies daily and thoughtfully use them while ensuring the safety of our staff, providers and patients.  

We can provide COVID-19 tests at all four of our hospitals, convenient care and primary care clinics, and drive-thru testing sites. We worked several weeks ago to develop in-house rapid testing, becoming one of the first non-academic medical centers to implement the technology. We have also partnered with MAKO Medical Laboratories to ensure an average 24-hour turnaround time on testing.  

We remain well below our hospitals’ capacity and, as of today, are only using about 10 percent of the ventilators we have on hand throughout our system.  

Patients suffering from COVID-19 require many different levels of care, and our professionals are working hard to customize treatments for individual patients. FirstHealth has joined the Mayo Clinic to coordinate access to investigational convalescent plasma for hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms, and we have already administered one successful plasma infusion for a COVID-19 patient.  Recovered patients are able to donate convalescent plasma through OneBlood, and that plasma would then be made available to FirstHealth patients. We’re excited about the opportunity to participate in this program. 

While it’s true that some COVID-19 patients do require hospital stays, I’m encouraged that many patients are able to recover at home from relatively mild symptoms.  

We continue the preventive measures we put in place weeks ago to prepare for a possible spike in COVID-19 cases in the Sandhills. Many non-time sensitive procedures are still on hold, and visitor restrictions and mandatory temperature checks are helping us keep you and our staff members safe.  

For those of you who need care that can’t wait, whether it be for cancer, an infected gallbladder or a broken arm, know that FirstHealth’s infection control team is taking every precaution – like they always have – to keep our facilities clean, safe and ready to serve.  

On, you will find more information about our response to the coronavirus, how you can keep yourself and your family members safe, and how you can get involved in the fight.  

We are publishing the number of tests we have administered and their results, and we will provide daily updates.  

Thank you again for how you have supported us during this time. Your donations of food and supplies continue to pour in, and our local first responders have filled the air in recent days with sirens of support.  

FirstHealth is committed to the communities we serve, and together, we will get through this. 

(Submitted to The News-Journal by FirstHealth)