Veteran Hospital CEO Has Tips for Good Management
Churchwell to Succeed Fenwick at Children's in March
10/13/20 3:53 PM
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, OCT. 13, 2020.....Boston Children's Hospital this week named its next CEO, weeks after its outgoing top executive laid out a few tips about running such a facility during a pandemic.
Sandra Fenwick has worked on the hospital's leadership team for two decades, with the last eight years as CEO. She also headed up efforts to expand research and create a new pediatric facility scheduled to open in 2022. Chief Operating Officer Kevin Churchwell will take over as CEO on March 31, the day Fenwick retires.
During a virtual event in late September, Fenwick highlighted the importance of surrounding yourself with experts, saying it's key to making critical decisions.
"Pharmacists kept our hospital running, our laboratory technicians kept our hospital running, but also our doctors and our nurses and our command center. Those people, our infection control team, our infectious disease people, were truly the ones who were providing the guidance, our safety people, so that we really, truly could protect ourselves and obviously, those we served," Fenwick said. "Surrounding yourself with experts, listening to them, taking their expert advice and then, as someone said, sometimes when you're hearing all the right and all the important information, taking some leaps of faith."
Fenwick offered insights into running a children's hospital in the midst of a health crisis during a Sept. 29 Facebook Live discussion with Robert Blendon, a professor at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Around 600,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, Fenwick said during the discussion, and make up about 5 percent of cases. Fenwick said the virus has not left the younger population unscathed, and a new syndrome discovered early in the summer even poses another danger to them.
"When children have been impacted and they are hospitalized, they actually end up in the ICU at the same rate as adults, about a third of them all end up in the ICU," she said. "Then there is also the new syndrome, the Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in children that was identified approximately at the end of May, which has impacted children far more severely. And we are now just beginning to understand the complexity of that new syndrome."
Fenwick, who also chairs the Children's Hospital Association's Public Policy Committee, said it is important for federal officials to understand the special needs of children. More than 50 percent of the children in the country are covered by Medicaid, she said, making that program a large source of revenue for hospitals.
"Which is an enormous number that most people don't understand, and how vulnerable they are if the access is cut, or the payments are reduced substantially so that there is reduced access and coverage for children," she said. "And so how we ensure that coverage and appropriate payment for services through the Medicaid and the [Children's Health Insurance Program] program are continued, I don't think we can possibly support that issue and that notion enough."
Collaboration among area hospitals and the international community would prove extremely helpful in combating and understanding the virus, she said.
At the outset of the pandemic, hospitals dedicated to providing pediatric care and services for children experienced some confusion as to how children were being affected by the virus. Were they going to see the same kind of surge witnessed in adult populations?
To understand the virus's impact on children, Fenwick said a physician at Boston Children's, Dr. Jefffrey Burns, initiated the Pediatric International Collaboration on COVID and MISC, otherwise known as the multisystem inflammatory syndrome, to share information among some of the top health care institutions.
"The CDC joined in, the WHO, the European Commission, to share best practices, to share learnings about children, to track the disease in children, and ultimately to understand this new syndrome," she said. "So we lead that process, and frankly, it's still going on every single week."
Within the children's hospital community, Fenwick said she found it helpful to "huddle every week" to learn best practices from each other.
"One of the things I learned from my colleagues was how important it was that they employed something called taking a safety pledge," she said. "And it was really asking everyone to say, I am here to protect not just myself, but to protect those around me."
Churchwell joined BHC in 2013 as executive vice president for health and affairs and chief operating officer. He also serves as an associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. Prior to working at the hospital, he headed up Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital.
"I am honored and excited by this opportunity, especially the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary team of talented and committed people," Churchwell said in a statement. "I look forward as well to serving as an advocate for investing in children, especially those whose health care needs are currently underserved."
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