Five Questions With: Dr. John B. Murphy

5Q: Dr. John B. Murphy | President, Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital

1. Do you foresee any permanent changes for health care in Rhode Island based on changes that were forced on the industry by the COVID-19 pandemic? The COVID-19 pandemic has created more movement in telehealth in two months than all the progress made in the last 10 years. Hopefully these gains will be sustained long after the pandemic is over. I also believe there will be diversification of the geographic sources for supply chain, and greater attention to investments on the local, state and federal levels in disaster preparedness.

2. As the state continues to deal with COVID-19 cases, what resources do you expect hospitals to be most in need of? Key among the needs will be personal protective equipment, or “PPE” (masks, N95 respirators, gowns, gloves, face shields and controlled air-purifying respirators), staff (doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, housekeepers and many more staff categories) and medications. Medications that will be in short supply are those associated with ventilator use, metered dose inhalers and medications for terminal care.

3. By the beginning of April, health care workers accounted for about a quarter of COVID-19 cases in the state. Has the virus caused staffing shortages at Lifespan’s hospitals? COVID-19 … [had] caused minimal staffing shortages in the Lifespan hospitals … . It appeared that initial COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island were disproportionately health care workers, but that was because health care workers were disproportionately tested. Furthermore, in the early days of the pandemic, among our health care workers who became infected with COVID-19, the vast majority were infected outside of the workplace.

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4. As a health care executive, are you able to see patients right now? While eight years ago I stepped away from the panel of patients I had followed for 32 years, I see patients every day in the hospital. When I became the president of Rhode Island Hospital in January, I committed to rounding with staff and patients for a minimum of one hour a day, and I have far exceeded that goal. It is also the single most important and fulfilling part of my job.

5. You have also held the role of executive vice president of physician affairs for Lifespan Corp. for many years; how is that about to change? I had decided to step down from that role this spring. … We have identified an immensely talented individual who will be joining Lifespan as the executive vice president of physician affairs and chief clinical officer for Lifespan later this spring.

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