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Why kindness, communication and transparency are keys to your pandemic response

Published on 4/10/2020

This article, featuring Children’s Mercy President and CEO, Paul Kempinski, M.S., FACHE, was originally published April 1 on Cerner is proud to support Children’s Mercy in delivering innovative care.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed nearly every aspect of life, and for many areas in the U.S., the worst is likely yet to come. Children's hospitals around the country are mobilizing their pandemic response plans—in many cases not only to provide care for their pediatric populations but also to help alleviate the strain on adult health care facilities.

Children's Hospitals Today caught up with Paul Kempinski, M.S., FACHE, president and chief executive officer at Children's Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri, to discuss his team's pandemic response and how children's hospitals can support their communities during this outbreak.

Q: As of now, COVID-19 is generally a more serious health threat to adults than children, yet of course children's hospitals need to adjust and make contingency plans. What is Children's Mercy doing to address the pandemic?

A: We're in a very interesting and unprecedented time right now. We as children's hospitals have taken all the appropriate protective actions in terms of canceling elective surgeries and canceling or transitioning clinic visits into a telemedicine type of environment.

Seeing the overall reductions in inpatient and other activity positions us to be an important player in the community in terms of creating additional surge capacity to assist the adult centers that either have experienced or may experience the impact of COVID-19 as it continues to migrate across the country.

Internally, we've activated our emergency preparedness plan. We meet at least daily—usually several times daily—to plan, prepare, coordinate, communicate and make decisions on policy, practice and protocol.

Externally, we are part of regional planning that is going on here. Kansas City hasn't felt the surge needs yet, but we are in a preparation stage and anticipating that. That's where I believe as a children's hospital, Children's Mercy can play an instrumental role.

The first step—which CHA hospitals have been advocating for—is a Tier One response. That would be to take the children who are being cared for in adult hospitals and transfer them to the children's hospital where the capabilities exist to continue to manage their care well. That creates immediate surge capacity for the adult centers.

A Tier Two response that our organization is anticipating and prepared to act on is raising our age threshold to maybe 25 or 26 years old. This would create additional surge capacity for the adult centers by sending us their younger adults, which we are equally ready to care for with competency and capability. We're anticipating some other actions using our far-reaching system to create opportunities for partnership and collaboration across the community.