Saturday, April 04, 2020
Area’s health care systems to lead regional pandemic task force
A news conference Saturday morning, April 4, announced the formation of a regional pandemic task force led by the area’s major health systems and including local health departments and elected leaders. The task force is part of an effort to prepare and coordinate response as a region. See local news coverage of the announcement, including KMOV, FOX2, KSDK, St. Louis Public Radio and stltoday.com. Read more about the task force below.
St. Louis Regional Health Care Systems Launch St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force
Dr. Alex Garza, Chief Medical Officer of SSM Health, to serve as incident commander of new task force established to manage health systems’ preparation of COVID-19 patient surge across the St. Louis region
ST. LOUIS, April 4, 2020 – To slow the transmission of COVID-19 and to help save lives across the St. Louis Metropolitan region, BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St Luke’s Hospital today announced the creation of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Dr. Alex Garza, Chief Medical Officer at SSM Health, will serve as the Incident Commander of the Task Force. Leaders from the health systems were joined at a press conference by St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, St. Louis City Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann.
The Task Force includes the St. Louis metropolitan area’s largest health care systems, working together to coordinate capacity, staffing, supplies and other issues to prepare for a coming surge of patients. They are also coordinating with public health departments, elected leaders and state and federal agencies to provide the best possible care to patients in the weeks ahead.
Dr. Alex Garza has been named by the health systems as Incident Commander of the Task Force. Dr. Garza currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer for SSM Health and will retain that position as he oversees the efforts of the Task Force. In addition to more than 21 years practicing and teaching in academic medicine, Dr. Garza is a Colonel with over 20 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserves. He previously served as Assistant Secretary and Chief Medical Officer to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He played a critical role in protecting the United States from threats of terrorism. While at DHS, Dr. Garza led the U.S. response to the H1N1 pandemic.
“The next 10 days to two weeks are critical. A surge is coming,” Dr. Garza said. “Our hospitals are already working to save lives and doing heroic work. But what we do as individuals — whether we stay at home, practice social distancing, wash our hands — will directly reduce the number of patients into our health care systems and impact whether our health care providers are able to manage the curve. What we do as individuals will affect how many people get sick — and how many people are able to recover.
“We will get through this if we all do our part. But the single most important priority for our community must be to slow the spread of this virus.”
The Task Force will build on the coordinated work in which the region’s health systems, governmental and public health leaders have been engaged to ensure collaboration and the best possible patient care and coordination of supplies, hospital beds and other critical assets. The Task Force will also communicate daily to the public about new developments via a daily press briefing.
“With his unique background, we are very fortunate to have Dr. Garza to help lead the system’s coordinated response,” said Laura Kaiser, President and CEO of SSM Health.