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Carilion Clinic CEO reflects on pandemic

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 7:57 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In March 2020, life in Virginia and across the United States changed.

“A year ago about this time we had just announced some pretty major capital projects, we had one of the best financial years, or the best financial years we had ever had, so we had a great plan in place, and then COVID hit,” said Nancy Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic.

Life changed, but even Agee says no one expected that change to last.

“We did not appreciate that it would last as long as it did, and I think initially we thought it would be more like a flu season, so for 2-3 months there would be intense concern, and then we would get back to normal.”

But in March 2021, procedures at Carilion are still vastly different than they were pre-COVID.

Visitation remains limited, PPE is worn, and COVID screening happens at every entrance of every facility. A year ago many of those decisions fell on Agee’s shoulders.

“We had to make a lot of decisions quickly, and without sufficient information, and information was constantly changing,” said Agee.

From halting progress on projects like the $500 million expansion to Carilion Roanoke Memorial, and stopping all elective surgeries several days before the governor’s mandate, the focus for Agee and Carilion staff was on the new demand COVID carried.

“We were able to respond very very quickly, and provide, I think, the communities we serve with exceptional care,” said Agee.

The care had to evolve. While tele-health was in the works, it was suddenly needed faster than originally thought.

“At one point when we were shutting down elective services; more than 70 percent of patients experienced a relationship with us technologically,” said Agee.

That relationship is something Agee takes pride in. Whether it was developed in person or through a computer screen, she says Carilion remains committed to service.

“To all the families who have had a person with COVID in their family, or perhaps lost a loved one, our hearts break for that, and we know that this has been an unprecedented virus, a pandemic like no other, but we are still here to care for you, and we are honored by that opportunity,” said Agee.

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