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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, May 7, 202007:01 AM EST

A counsel on crisis frontline

Baptist Health System General Counsel Scott Baity offers insight into COVID-19 response.

By Asghar Syed, JBA Board of Governors

If there is a group that we can all feel thankful for, it is our frontline health care professionals, it’s the doctors and nurses that step forward in a crisis, often impervious to the risks it might pose to their personal health and safety. 

I recently spoke with the general counsel of the Baptist Health System, Scott Baity, about how he and his team have supported our health care heroes during the COVID-19 crisis.

Here are some of Baity’s responses to my questions:

Can you give us a sense of the COVID-19 crisis from Baptist Health’s perspective? What did this look like in March 2020? 

In the early days of the crisis, predictive models suggested Baptist could see a surge of up to 2,700 COVID-19 patients by early May. We drill for mass emergencies throughout the year, but that number grabbed our attention because it is roughly twice the health system’s inpatient capacity.

We went into high gear to ensure we had the necessary staff, supplies and equipment to meet such needs, even preparing to double our bed capacity through field hospitals.

Fortunately, with the community’s effort towards social distancing, the predicted curve has flattened in our region to a more manageable level. But we remain vigilant.

Explain your and your team’s roles in preparing for the crisis

We’ve been working closely with our clinical and business leaders to source scarce equipment and supplies, answer HR questions, explore innovation, think through ethical dilemmas and advocate for regulatory assistance.

This is a state of emergency, so we’ve taken a big picture approach. Our advice has been less about risk mitigation and more about doing the right thing. I think our leaders have appreciated our legal team’s decisiveness during this rapid ramp-up.

It’s comforting to us to be able to turn to professionals we respect. We have a great in-house team, but the novelty of this situation meant we had to brainstorm frequently with outside counsel experts, governmental attorneys and our attorney peers within the industry, all of whom have been great collaborators throughout this event. It shows how strong our profession can be during a crisis.

One of Baptist Health’s top priorities has been to support its frontline clinicians, the doctors and nurses that are committed to protecting all of us if things get out of hand. Tell us about your team’s role in supporting them. 

We know how much people rely on Baptist and how important our clinical professionals are to the entire community. Just look at the many thank you signs that have popped up around our campuses.

We want that team focused on patient care and not distracted by unnecessary legal or regulatory concerns. Our department can tackle those issues for them and do our part to remove impediments and empower our frontline heroes.

They know legal’s here to help them and that we have their backs.

It seems social distancing efforts have been successful (at least so far) and we may in a position to shift our focus to recovery. Do you have any thoughts or advice for JBA members about what they can do to assist the public? 

Be empathetic and collaborative.

We’ve all gone through a stressful few weeks, the crisis has impacted some in our community much more than others and many individuals and businesses will struggle to recover and adapt as we emerge from isolation.

As a profession, we can help the community heal and get back on its feet if we work together for the greater good.

In closing, I extend my thanks to Scott Baity and his team, the Baptist Health System’s leadership and the health care professionals that are prepared (crisis or no crisis) to put their own safety on the line to protect and serve our community.

Asghar Syed is a shareholder at Gunster and focuses on complex business litigation.

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