When the nation’s largest public health care system, NYC Health + Hospitals, late last year braced for another COVID-19 onslaught, they turned to Acuity — a trusted partner — to deliver medical staff reinforcements across New York City to help manage a forecasted wave of winter infections.
In December, Acuity mobilized a team to stand up a turnkey medical support operation in New York — casting a recruiting net across the nation to rapidly enlist, vet, certify and credential professionals who could be flown to the city and deployed across a dozen hospitals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
“We are augmenting New York City H+H hospitals for the COVID response,” said David Franco, Acuity assistant project manager.
The mission encompasses three tasks: providing medical staff — mostly nurses and respiratory therapists to municipal hospitals; delivering licensed clinical social workers to support the operation of hotels converted as isolation facilities to help curb coronavirus spread; and surging pharmacists and clerical workers to assist with vaccine distribution.
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This is Acuity’s second support mission in New York. In early 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, Acuity deployed 500 medical personnel and established within a week a temporary 460-bed medical facility on the grounds of the U.S. Tennis Open at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens.
Back again, Acuity is wielding its logistics expertise, information technology prowess and medical know-how as well as a nimbleness to respond to evolving client needs.
In the basement of a hotel in Long Island City, a Queens neighborhood two subway stops from Manhattan, a small Acuity team set up a staging base to onboard more than 1,000 personnel, fitting them with personal protective equipment, conducting drug testing, providing HIPAA training, badging and credentialing for NYC H+H facilities.
Every new mission can bring a new challenge, even for Acuity — which both builds and staffs hospitals around the world. In Queens, the Acuity team worked closely with client requirements to ensure all employees met a high standard of credentialing. In the end, it was teamwork that mattered most.
“We had to truly learn,” said Megan Riedy, Acuity’s chief nurse. “And I think this particular team here in New York got really great at being very flexible. Because we picked up on a plan today, it might not be the plan tomorrow, and said, ‘That’s okay, we’ll flex with it.’”
To provide the client full transparency and confidence about backgrounds, licensing, medical records and more of all new staff, the Acuity team built on-the-fly new IT tools — constructing a tailored database with more than 40,000 elements. This gave NYC H&H and Acuity leadership “an atomic-level view” of all medical and administrative data associated with the staffing mission, said Kevin Wood, Acuity data manager.
The Acuity team also found creative ways to execute the mission, such as establishing liaison officials in each borough — an arrangement that was originally meant to support Acuity staff but also delivered the unexpected benefit of improving understanding of NYC H+H operations.
“That’s invaluable,” said Jim Hill, project manager. “That’s something that other companies don’t have.”
Hill said a key discriminator in the mission is not only Acuity’s high-quality staff that deliver excellence, but also compassion brought to the task.
“The spirit of the mission is that we’re helping people,” said Hill, who draws on his experience as a former history teacher to put Acuity’s pandemic-support effort in context of the last global health catastrophe: the 1918 Spanish Influenza.
“You look back at those black and white photographs and they’re all walking around with masks like we are right now, and it was horrible,” said Hill. “And we’re going through another tragedy like this globally — and this city needs our help. That’s why we’re here.”
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