At the epicenter of the COVID first wave, safety-net hospitals were vital community assets. featuring Dr. Wayne Riley.

Back in the early days of the pandemic, in the spring of 2020, SUNY Downstate President Dr. Wayne Riley found himself leading a major health system responsible for the care of some of the most vulnerable communities in New York City through unprecedented times. As the hospitals filled up with COVID patients his teams had to simultaneously support their staff and plan their response for patients. Dr. Riley talks to Dr. Mary O’Connor about some of the immediate steps they had to take in response, from dealing with a lack of PPE to mitigating an immediate oxygen shortage. Beyond supply chain issues, many safety net hospitals have found themselves stretched to breaking point both financially and in terms of staffing, and many hospitals have closed. Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Riley discuss the vital role that safety net hospitals play in care of patients in both urban and rural environments, and the margin pressures and funding shortfalls that are causing a crisis in the care of underserved populations.

“During the pandemic, a lot of safety-net hospitals really became very important community assets because they were the trusted partners in their community. But they did not have the resources of the better funded hospitals. The pandemic has not just revealed that we have issues of health disparities, but we have health disparities in terms of hospital resources.”
Dr. Wayne Riley, President, SUNY Downstate

“The healthcare system is really a system that takes care of sickness. Focusing further upstream on how we can promote better health in our communities, more of a wellness approach so people don’t get so sick, is a direction I feel strongly we should be moving in.”
Dr. Mary O’Connor, Chair, Movement is Life

“Disparities are not just Black, White, Latino, or Asian; they are urban, rural, they are suburban, exurban, and we worry about the rural hospital closures too. We have seen a lot of problems with critical access hospitals. This pandemic has highlighted that we need to invest more.”
Dr. Wayne Riley, President, SUNY Downstate

“Safety-net hospitals have an historic mission, taking care of immigrants, taking care of African Americans because they could not go to certain hospitals due to segregation, in communities that are struggling, that’s in the DNA of these hospitals, and they are incredibly mission focused, but they know that the margin pressure is significant.”
Dr. Wayne Riley, President, SUNY Downstate

The Critical Role of Safety-Net Hospitals in Advancing Health Equity – Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, Movement is Life Caucus 2021 Presentation: https://vimeo.com/659762331

About Dr. Wayne Riley: https://www.downstate.edu/about/office-of-the-president/president-riley/index.html