Coming together


We can, hopefully, see the end of the covid pandemic, and we are all tired, relieved, and hopeful for the future.

Almost 6,000 Arkansans have died during the pandemic. We have been spared the tragedies experienced in New York City and other large communities partly because of good luck, but more importantly because of planning and cooperation between the city government, the Arkansas Department of Health, the health-care community, and the business community.

Before the pandemic officially arrived in Arkansas, Mayor Frank Scott appointed a covid task force to see what could/should be done to confront the problem. Steppe Mette (UAMS), Greg Crain (Baptist Health), Drew Jackson (Arkansas Heart Hospital), Gerry Jones (St. Vincent Infirmary), Jared Capouya (Arkansas Children’s Hospital), Brian Fowler (Arkansas Surgical Hospital), Mandee Novack (infectious-disease physician), Naveen Patil (Department of Health), and Jon Swanson (MEMS) formed the core group.

The first meetings could be described as frank but superficial. No one really knew the other members of the group, and it was difficult to discern what could be done since no one fully understood the complexity of the problem. There were common problems: lack of personal protective equipment, lack of respirators, and the finite number of health-care professionals in central Arkansas. Sources for N95 masks were traded, and alternatives to respirators were discussed.

Face shields turned out to be a more perplexing problem, and the solution came from an unlikely source. Initially the University of Arkansas at Little Rock volunteered to make the frame utilizing its 3-D printers. The plastic was purchased locally. UALR was very successful in turning out the frames, but the process was very labor-intensive and could not quickly produce the number of face shields that were needed.

Enter Patrick Schueck and Lexicon. Patrick took the plastic frame, improved the design, and then made the frames out of aluminum at his cost. Jay Chesshir utilized a generous gift from Pete Vegas and purchased the last remaining available plastic in the United States at the time to make the face shields.

Because of local involvement and local generosity, all the hospital personnel in central Arkansas were given permanent face shields.

After about a month, the committee had a remarkable breakthrough. All of us had viewed with horror the mobile hospitals, the lack of ICU space, and the inability to provide each patient with optimal care seen in other states. One Saturday the committee met for five or six hours to try to arrive at a solution on how to avoid those problems.

During a very remarkable meeting, each hospital shared all their proprietary information: number of staff, number of ventilators, available PPE, and their ability to expand their capacity based on their physical plant and their number of personnel. Children’s Hospital and Arkansas Surgical Hospital stated that they could be overflow and convalescent facilities.

They discussed ways to communicate the availability of beds and how to make sure that every patient got optimal therapy. They discussed how to work with peripheral hospitals so they could keep patients in their hospitals with the understanding that they would be transferred if the patient’s condition worsened. MEMS, French Hill, and the Department of Health were critical parts of the plan.

By the end of the session, the group felt confident that by working together they could take care of and provide superb care to the citizens of our state.

By early summer, covid patients had received exemplary care without the problems seen in other locales. This was achieved without losing the life of a single health-care provider through hospital exposure.

But this success came with an unintended consequence. Because we focused solely on covid during a three-month period of time, we had not taken care of non-covid acute problems (heart attacks, broken bones), sub-acute problems (knee replacement), routine exams (mammograms), and immunizations. The lack of attention to these and other health problems caused potentially an equal risk to the covid pandemic.

The medical community understood that it must be able to safely take care of covid patients and non-covid patients simultaneously. Millie Ward of Stone and Ward developed a pro bono public service campaign to educate the public that hospitals and clinics were open and safe regardless of your medical problem. The media was paid for by Blue Cross Blue Shield and Fifty for the Future.

Sadly, too many Arkansans died from covid. But the coalition of city government, the Arkansas Department of Health, the six central Arkansas hospitals, and the business community meant that each Arkansan could and did receive superior care simultaneously for covid and non-covid problems.

A great example of what make Arkansas special: Arkansans coming together to help Arkansans.


Dr. Dean Kumpuris is a member of the board of directors of the City of Little Rock.



Read More:Coming together

Coming together


We can, hopefully, see the end of the covid pandemic, and we are all tired, relieved, and hopeful for the future.

Almost 6,000 Arkansans have died during the pandemic. We have been spared the tragedies experienced in New York City and other large communities partly because of good luck, but more importantly because of planning and cooperation between the city government, the Arkansas Department of Health, the health-care community, and the business community.

Before the pandemic officially arrived in Arkansas, Mayor Frank Scott appointed a covid task force to see what could/should be done to confront the problem. Steppe Mette (UAMS), Greg Crain (Baptist Health), Drew Jackson (Arkansas Heart Hospital), Gerry Jones (St. Vincent Infirmary), Jared Capouya (Arkansas Children’s Hospital), Brian Fowler (Arkansas Surgical Hospital), Mandee Novack (infectious-disease physician), Naveen Patil (Department of Health), and Jon Swanson (MEMS) formed the core group.

The first meetings could be described as frank but superficial. No one really knew the other members of the group, and it was difficult to discern what could be done since no one fully understood the complexity of the problem. There were common problems: lack of personal protective equipment, lack of respirators, and the finite number of health-care professionals in central Arkansas. Sources for N95 masks were traded, and alternatives to respirators were discussed.

Face shields turned out to be a more perplexing problem, and the solution came from an unlikely source. Initially the University of Arkansas at Little Rock volunteered to make the frame utilizing its 3-D printers. The plastic was purchased locally. UALR was very successful in turning out the frames, but the process was very labor-intensive and could not quickly produce the number of face shields that were needed.

Enter Patrick Schueck and Lexicon. Patrick took the plastic frame, improved the design, and then made the frames out of aluminum at his cost. Jay Chesshir utilized a generous gift from Pete Vegas and purchased the last remaining available plastic in the United States at the time to make the face shields.

Because of local involvement and local generosity, all the hospital personnel in central Arkansas were given permanent face shields.

After about a month, the committee had a remarkable breakthrough. All of us had viewed with horror the mobile hospitals, the lack of ICU space, and the inability to provide each patient with optimal care seen in other states. One Saturday the committee met for five or six hours to try to arrive at a solution on how to avoid those problems.

During a very remarkable meeting, each hospital shared all their proprietary information: number of staff, number of ventilators, available PPE, and their ability to expand their capacity based on their physical plant and their number of personnel. Children’s Hospital and Arkansas Surgical Hospital stated that they could be overflow and convalescent facilities.

They discussed ways to communicate the availability of beds and how to make sure that every patient got optimal therapy. They discussed how to work with peripheral hospitals so they could keep patients in their hospitals with the understanding that they would be transferred if the patient’s condition worsened. MEMS, French Hill, and the Department of Health were critical parts of the plan.

By the end of the session, the group felt confident that by working together they could take care of and provide superb care to the citizens of our state.

By early summer, covid patients had received exemplary care without the problems seen in other locales. This was achieved without losing the life of a single health-care provider through hospital exposure.

But this success came with an unintended consequence. Because we focused solely on covid during a three-month period of time, we had not taken care of non-covid acute problems (heart attacks, broken bones), sub-acute problems (knee replacement), routine exams (mammograms), and immunizations. The lack of attention to these and other health problems caused potentially an equal risk to the covid pandemic.

The medical community understood that it must be able to safely take care of covid patients and non-covid patients simultaneously. Millie Ward of Stone and Ward developed a pro bono public service campaign to educate the public that hospitals and clinics were open and safe regardless of your medical problem. The media was paid for by Blue Cross Blue Shield and Fifty for the Future.

Sadly, too many Arkansans died from covid. But the coalition of city government, the Arkansas Department of Health, the six central Arkansas hospitals, and the business community meant that each Arkansan could and did receive superior care simultaneously for covid and non-covid problems.

A great example of what make Arkansas special: Arkansans coming together to help Arkansans.


Dr. Dean Kumpuris is a member of the board of directors of the City of Little Rock.



Read More:Coming together