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How Dr. Feagins Helped Guide Cincinnati’s COVID-19 Response

Jul 26 2022

While Stephen Feagins, MD, our Cincinnati market’s chief clinical officer, was helping shape the area’s response to COVID-19, he was also serving as medical director of Hamilton County Public Health as well as his treating his patients. This tireless dedication recently earned him recognition as a finalist in the provider category of the Cincinnati Business Courier’s 2022 Health Care Heroes Awards.

Representing our ministry on Cincinnati’s Health Collaborative, Steve participated in a four-hour pandemic exercise back in September of 2019. Sadly, the drill foreshadowed difficult decisions the area’s health care systems would face only months later.

Then, in early 2020, Dr. Feagins was among the first to receive calls about patients with symptoms. He personally treated some of the earliest COVID-19 cases in the area. He also became a key member of the Cincinnati market’s incident command team.

Area health care systems representatives began meeting daily in early 2020. Among decisions they tackled were setting consistent protocols for masks and eye protection, aligning hospital visitor policies and, once available, facilitating health care worker COVID-19 vaccinations.

Dr. Feagins credits close collaboration for successful management of the pandemic.

“One of the things I learned is that it’s better to use the capacity we have as efficiently as we can,” he shares. “This was instead of trying to build a brand-new hospital at the Duke Energy Convention Center.”

While this emergency plan came close to reality, Dr. Feagins shares that instead, the team found excess capacity in ventilators, oxygen, high-flow oxygen and other things they have, including personnel.

“We struggled in the first surge, and more in subsequent surges, but we didn’t break,” he notes.

Overall, Dr. Feagins is proud of The Health Collaborative’s efforts.

“It’s almost exhilarating to have a common cause and to allow everything else to fade while you focus on the common cause,” he shares. “Throughout, it’s been a real privilege to struggle with decisions with incredibly smart people, smarter than me, and be as collaborative as we can.”

The team shared census data as well as developed, shared and adapted COVID-19 protocols to establish best practices. As evidence of their joint success, Steve points to the results.

“If you look at southwest Ohio, we had a comparable number of cases compared to the rest of the country, with 80 percent of the deaths. I just think that health care is in a better place here locally.”

The Health Collaborative continues its work, using lessons learned to remain vigilant to outbreaks, such as monkeypox.

Additionally, Dr. Feagins’ COVID-19 work was recognized previously by The Leapfrog Group, an independent national watchdog organization of employers focused on health care safety and quality. He received Special Recognition for Heroism During the Pandemic for his extraordinary commitment to patient safety during the COVID-19 crisis.

Steve is especially appreciative of the Cincinnati Business Courier’s recognition because of the opportunity to attend their health care heroes event. There, he hopes to meet many of his colleagues from The Health Collaborative – in person – for the first time, as their frequent meetings have been virtual.

Learn more about our COVID-19 efforts at Mercy Health.

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