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Initial coronavirus obstacles are now shaping Carilion’s future, says CEO Nancy Agee

arilion Clinic entered 2020 at the top of its game: helping more patients, offering more services, hiring more staff and just having announced $1 billion worth of expansion projects.

Then, in March, the coronavirus pandemic began.

“Everything was so frightening. You know, we were making decisions without really information,” recalled President and CEO of Carilion Clinic Nancy Agee.

She said as the virus spread across the country, she and her colleagues watched, waited and prepared.

Southwest Virginia’s first COVID-19 case arrived mid-March.

“One of the biggest concerns we had was keeping our staff safe, keeping our community safe and obviously keeping our patients safe,” said Agee.

They scrambled to stock up on PPE, implemented strict visitor policies and ultimately, put all elective surgeries on hold.

Agee said they overcame the challenges thrown at them and also found opportunities.

“It’s been a very different, difficult, at the same time, inspiring year,” Agee said.

Heading into last year, Carilion had plans to launch widespread telehealth in 18 to 24 months.

“We set that up in a matter of three or four days,” Agee said.

The success in telemedicine so far is just the beginning.

Agee is inspired by her hardworking colleagues and now seeing COVID vaccine shots going into arms in Southwest Virginia.

“I got rather teary when I first saw the vaccines coming in. It was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is it. We are going to get past this pandemic. It’s going to take a while but we are going to get past it,’” Agee said. “There was never a moment, never a moment when I thought, ‘What are we going to do next?’ There were plenty of moments when I thought, ‘Okay, how are we going to get through this? But we will’ and we did and we have and we will.”

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