In a new report, association member Norwegian American Hospital (NAH), in Chicago, outlines its journey and challenges the hospital faced during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an urban hospital filling a safety-net role in its community, NAH serves a largely Black and Latinx population. Zip codes surrounding the hospital had nearly three times as many COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents as the rest of Chicago, highlighting health disparities that have been well documented throughout the pandemic. To increase resources in this area amid the public health crisis, the hospital worked with local partners to launch community testing in the surrounding neighborhood and doubled the number of bags distributed through its twice-monthly food pantry.
NAH faced several resource challenges while treating a surge of COVID-19 patients. To combat shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), NAH developed systems to safely reuse PPE and communicated with staff to prevent hoarding needed equipment. While NAH was able to redistribute staff to meet the needs of patients, the report notes access to traveling nurses would have been helpful. Restrictive requirements for moving patients between hospitals also prevented easy transfers of patients to facilities with more capacity.
Further, NAH calls attention to Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding methodology that unfairly favored larger hospitals capable of accepting higher numbers of COVID-19 patients. Hospitals with lower shares of private insurance revenue, including many hospitals in safety-net roles, also received less relief funding per bed. NAH recommends prioritizing funding for hospitals in safety-net roles that serve as anchor institutions in vulnerable communities.