Health Care

Mihaljevic discusses COVID-19 and Cleveland Clinic’s future in State of the Clinic

As it enters its centennial year on the heels of an extraordinary 2020, Cleveland Clinic has a new mission statement: caring for life, researching for health and educating those who serve. Dr. Tom Mihaljevic, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, announced a new mission statement during his State of the Clinic address Wednesday morning, Jan. 13. Although the annual speech (held virtually this year) typically includes the system’s year-end financials, the address was held too early this year for those to be available. Mihaljevic said the Clinic ended 2020 with a “modest operating gain,” though behind budget.In the roughly half-hour speech, Mihaljevic praised the Clinic’s caregivers who stepped up to the challenges of the past year to battle COVID-19, support their colleagues and train in new specialty areas.”Our caregivers are truly selfless,” he said. “Your teamwork and compassion honor the memory of our founders and every caregiver who has called Cleveland Clinic home. Your efforts have led to many learnings in this pandemic. Firstly, this has been a unifying moment for our global health care community. Second, researchers are making faster discoveries. And third, clinicians are now able to take care of more patients virtually.”Despite the financial strains of 2020, the Clinic avoided pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs thanks to delayed capital projects, forgone raises, using time off and CARES Act funding. Although some capital projects have been postponed — including a hospital in Mentor, a new Neurological Institute building and a Cole Eye Institute expansion — Mihaljevic said the Clinic isn’t considering canceling any of those plans entirely. Cleveland Clinic London was also delayed a bit by the pandemic but is now slated to open its outpatient services in September. Inpatient services will follow in January 2022.The Clinic was also able to continue the benefits it has added for its caregivers in the past couple of years, including increased time for fully paid leave for new parents. Its efforts to expand wellness and self-care programs and increase channels for regular, transparent communication and feedback served the system well in 2020, he said. Mihaljevic also announced a new council on inclusion and racial equity, which will recommend priorities to strengthen diversity and prevent bias. The Clinic’s commitment is to have a workforce as diverse as the communities it serves. “Diversity is our strength; recognizing this allows us to deliver better care,” he said. “We understand that racial disparities exist. They are harmful to people’s health and require us to take action. Cleveland Clinic strongly pledges to do our part to end structural racism in health care and lift every voice in the process.”Throughout the year, centennial celebrations with the theme of “the Future of Healthcare Since 1921″ will focus on the past, present and future.Mihaljevic pointed to some highlights of the past year, including the establishment of the Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens, which is expected to be the largest research effort in Clinic history in grant dollars and jobs. The system also reached an agreement with Sisters of Charity Health System to acquire Mercy Medical Center in Canton and announced late last year that it had provided a record $1.16 billion in community benefit in 2019. Mihaljevic is still aiming to meet his goal to double the number of patients the Clinic serves by 2024, but last year put it slightly behind. In an interview with reporters after the speech, Mihaljevic said the Clinic currently has about 1,300 caregivers out on any given day out with infection with COVID-19. The system has vaccinated essentially all of the frontline caregivers who wanted to get vaccinated. Employees aren’t required to get vaccinated but are strongly encouraged to do so, Mihaljevic said. Overall, acceptance has been more than 60%, with the physician population in excess of 80% and nurses in excess of 75%.”Our country is facing a record number of daily deaths — 4,000 people lose their lives to COVID every single day,” he said. “This is far worse than the beginning of the pandemic in March and April. We cannot speak about improvement, but what we can speak about is a hope for improvement because vaccination is here.”

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