End of the Year Message From CEO Jim Luisi
As we end 2020 and approach a new year, I would like to review some of the outstanding and exceptional work that was done at NEW Health. Despite the challenges of 2020, I am extremely proud of our resiliency and the way our staff has risen to the occasion while continuing to deliver care and services with compassion and commitment for our patients and community. This makes me very hopeful as we enter 2021.
While the pandemic has placed restrictions and challenges over the past 9 months, we have worked diligently to enhance and adapt our programs and services to respond to this difficult and unprecedented time. Almost on day 1 of the shutdown, NEW Health moved quickly to prioritize a smooth rollout of Telehealth and develop infection control policies to keep staff safe. Because of our strong partnership with MGH and MGB, we were able to acquire much needed PPE and follow policies and procedures developed in conjunction with DPH, CDC and Federal Response teams. This allowed us to bring some patients back into the health center sooner than most other organizations.
Federal Covid funding in partnerships with the Boston Public Health Commission and MGH allowed us to set up testing sites in Charlestown and the North End. Dental Staff who could not see patients in the health center were deployed to do infection control, testing and contract tracing. To date, almost 5000 COVID-19 tests have been done at both sites using existing staff which may have saved lives through early detection, treatment and referral when needed. Changing some staff roles has prevented us from furloughing any staff during the pandemic. While other organizations were cutting staff, stopping raises and not giving cost of living adjustments, NEW Health employees were kept whole allowing patients who needed care to receive it through telephonic, video or in house visits. Our work has been featured in the Globe and Herald as well as NECN and Channel 5.
This summer, NEW Health was awarded the federal government’s highest award for clinical excellence. This placed us among the top 4% of health centers nationally. It also caught the attention of Tom Engel, a top health administrator in the White House, who made a visit last month to see first hand the Covid work done by the Health Center Staff.
NEW Health has long prioritized food insecurity as a strong social determinate of health among our patients population and community. According to Feeding America, 1 in 8 people in the Boston area will experience food insecurity due to the Covid crisis. Our staff has raised tens of thousands of dollars to combat the problem by working with the Eliot and Harvard Kent Schools. Hundreds of food gift cards are given to families from those schools each month.
Over the last year, we have seen the fight for racial justice and equity intensify. As staff take part in conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion, NEW Health aims to be a leader in supporting the fight for people made vulnerable by inequities in our health care system and society.
Fundraising has been a key source of revenue for NEW Health for programs and services not covered by grants or insurance billing. Unfortunately, Taste of the North End was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. North End restaurants have always been generous in providing food for the event in the past. This year we had a virtual event with local chefs demonstrating favorite recipes on line. To help support restaurants in a small way, all proceeds from the virtual Taste of the North End went to buying some PPE for restaurants.
Time flies and that is demonstrated by the celebration that took place in December for the 5th Anniversary of the opening of our Charlestown site. It has grown by leaps and bounds and provides valuable services that were not previously available in Charlestown.
Finally, we still face challenges and opportunities heading into the New Year. We are waiting for direction from the State on Covid vaccination. We will start vaccination as soon as we receive our 1st patient shipment. We know people are hungering for a return to better times.
We continue to grow and that has required us to begin recruiting for 2 new physicians for our health centers. Our space in Charlestown continues to expand to accommodate new staff and program expansion. We are preparing for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of our North End site in September.
In closing, I would like to sincerely thank the NEW Health Board and Staff for the incredible determination and hard work in the face of extreme diversity and congratulate them on their accomplishments. May 2021 bring everyone peace and good health.