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A message from your Medical Staff President

17 Jan 2021

Reflections on 2020 and hope for 2021

By: Leon Burrows, MD – Medical Staff President

Dear Salem Health Medical Staff Members,

As we move into 2021 and leave 2020 behind, recent events at the U.S. Capitol have sent shock waves across our country. These deeply troubling events are in stark contrast to the progress and the much-needed hope that many of us are feeling this new year with the rollout of the new vaccines developed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  Despite this time of troubling division within our country, I am filled with optimism for the coming year. Over the past year our community has dealt with a multitude of struggles including: a global pandemic, local wildfires, and social unrest resulting from the deep divisions within our society. Moving forward into 2021 we have made significant progress on multiple fronts. I would like to take this opportunity not only to reflect on the progress we have made so far, but also to set the stage for the future.

When I began my term as Medical Staff President in January of 2020, I wrote down three major goals to guide me during my term which, despite the unforeseen circumstances of 2020 remain my guiding principles. The first is to facilitate communication between the medical staff, medical staff leadership and Salem Health administration. To accomplish this goal, I have focused on utilizing “Common Ground”, the Medical Executive Committee, the Physician Leadership Council and communicating with sections via Section Chiefs or by attending section meetings personally. I am striving to attend at least one section meeting for each of the thirty-one sections during my term as president. The second is to facilitate continued high quality patient care by our medical staff. It has been amazing to witness all the great work over the past year by physician leaders and staff leadership at the section and department levels in dealing with the pandemic, especially the creative solutions developed and implemented to maximize resources while maintaining high quality patient care. The third is to assure that all medical staff are treated fairly by following our established rules and by-laws and by encouraging participation in our peer review process, so that your point of view as a provider is reflected in each peer review case.

In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the major emphasis has been on maintaining high quality patient care while keeping providers and staff safe. There has been constant focus on continuously improving our testing capacity; a difficult endeavor given all the variables involved. However, we are now to the point where all COVID-19 testing can be performed in-house at Salem Health with relatively short turnaround times. In addition, testing is provided as needed to all active medical staff free of charge by the Salem Health laboratory. Personal protective equipment has also been a priority. Thanks to the work of all those involved we have been able to maintain a sufficient supply of masks, gowns, gloves, and other protective equipment to include fitting all medical staff who desire for P100 masks. While other hospitals around the state have needed to postpone or cancel elective surgeries during the latest surge in the pandemic, the dedicated work of our surgical department leaders has allowed us at Salem Health to maintain our capacity.

The development of the COVID-19 vaccines in such a short period of time is an unprecedented achievement in the history of medicine. Thank you for your patience and understanding during the rollout of the vaccines. After initial rollout of the vaccines to our medical staff and hospital staff, vaccination of additional members of our community is progressing according to Oregon Health Association guidelines. A community vaccination center has been created at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in the past week and thousands of community members are being vaccinated through the extraordinary efforts of Salem Health staff and leadership. As we advance in this endeavor there will be opportunities to volunteer in this process, and I encourage all who are able to step forward and help keep our community safe. While it is heartwarming to see so much hope on the horizon, it is vitally important that we maintain focus and redouble our efforts to protect each other according to established mitigation strategies and safety protocols that are in place. This means we must all continue to do our part – to wear face masks, practice good hand hygiene, avoid gatherings, and practice physical distancing.

A painful time for all during this past year was experiencing the social unrest that has gripped our country and provoked a dialogue regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through the excellent work of the Salem Health Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council and other leaders this effort has continued to progress with input from many on the medical staff and direct input from the Medical Executive Committee in drafting an actionable diversity, equity, and inclusion commitment statement to guide us as we move forward. There is much to do in continuing to advance this work, but there is a strong commitment amongst medical staff leadership and Salem Health administration to ensure we stay focused on this vital endeavor in our local community and society overall.

The wildfires that gripped the area in September were another brutal reminder of the power of nature and how it can dramatically affect the lives of all in our community. Through the work of Incident Command, medical staff, hospital staff and the outpouring of support by our community we were able to help keep our patients safe and come together in support of one another. Although the immediate wildfire threat has passed, there are still many struggling as a consequence of the destruction, and we need to continue to be mindful of these difficulties.

Our resiliency, nimbleness, and culture of collaboration that we have developed though many years of striving to implement the Compact, using Lean tools and the work of the Team Resiliency Institute is what has helped us through these tough times and will continue to buoy us up as we confront struggles going forward. I am extremely proud of the medical staff, hospital staff and administration who have helped keep our patients and community safe throughout the past year and into the new year. I would like to thank you all for your continuing efforts on behalf of our patients. This year we will likely be confronted with new challenges, but I am confident as we work together and remain committed to caring for our community and keeping each other safe these challenges will be overcome and that we can look forward to brighter days ahead.

Thank you for your continued support.

Leon Burrows, MD – Medical Staff President