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Healthcare Leaders Examine Timely Topics Affecting the Industry

Healthcare leaders featured on the BCW’s State of the Economy: Healthcare webinar on Wednesday discussed a range of issues affecting their industry including how all employers must pay more attention to their workers’ wellbeing to prosper and attract new talent.

Charlotte Ostman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Westchester, told attendees that healthcare employers must now consider mental health and employment policies that they historically did not, such as a flexible schedules, remote work and fair compensation for staff who have endured “vicarious trauma” from seeing patients, clients and co-workers suffer through the pandemic. Ostman noted that employers must recognize that women faced greater challenges remaining employed through the pandemic because they typically raise children and care for family members.

Judith Watson, CEO of the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center, explained that the pandemic is not over because Mount Vernon has a 60% adult vaccination rate compared with 80% in the rest of Westchester County. Watson noted that the center powers Westchester’s economy with $52 million in activity; 277 full- and part-time jobs; and a $12 million renovation project slated for the Mount Vernon site.

Marcos Crespo, Senior Vice President for Community Affairs at Montefiore Medical Center, said the pandemic moved his health network to change its culture of care by overcoming assumptions about the communities they serve. Montefiore has shifted its culture by: overcoming the digital divide in poor communities with new digital tools; listening to communities to enhance cooperation; and redirecting procurement policies to focus on local suppliers and women- and minority-owned businesses.

Guy Leibler, President of Simone Healthcare Development, said that despite healthcare’s significant role in the Lower Hudson Valley’s economy—more than $12 billion in economic activity and 54,000 employees in 2020 — hospitals are financially fragile because of uncertain revenue and skyrocketing expenses. Leibler said that some of the expensive challenges facing hospitals include redesigning themselves and the way they admit patients. Healthcare providers must also cope with a crisis of confidence throughout society as it moves out of a traumatizing pandemic.

Dr. Sherlita Amler, Westchester County’s Health Commissioner, said that the unknown quality of Covid-19 forced healthcare providers to resort to time-tested policies like face masks, social distancing and handwashing until vaccines became available. Moving forward, Amler said that she and other professionals are seeking young, energized professionals replace the ones who retired or burned out during the pandemic.

Josh Ratner, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Westchester Medical Center, said his hospital’s big challenge is helping employees manage stress, depression and burn out. In response, the hospital has enhanced its employee engagement programs and sought feedback from staff to correct employment shortcomings.

The State of the Economy: Healthcare is one of a series of webinars that in the coming months will address how Westchester County is recovering from the pandemic and its economic damage. The next State of the Economy sessions will be held on March 30 (development), April 20 (arts and culture), and May 11 (non-profits). State of the Economy events are sponsored by PCSB Bank.  Wednesday’s program, which was moderated by BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon, can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/TheBusinessCouncilofWestchester/videos/506808454223738

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