Thursday morning, officials with the City of El Paso, in partnership with the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation (MCA) and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PDNHF) announced the creation of the COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership.
Officials share that this new public-private partnership aims to improve communication and coordination between public sector officials, private sector partners and healthcare providers, and to strengthen the region’s collective capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Battelle, an international science and technology company that has been at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been contracted to work with partnership leaders and provide hands-on support and guidance.
“During these unprecedented times, our focus and priority remains the same: to ensure all our residents, especially our workers on the frontlines, remain safe and healthy, and that we put the right systems in place to stop the spread of coronavirus,” said El Paso Mayor Dee Margo. “That is why we are drawing on the expertise of Battelle and working with leaders across the region in the public and private sectors to enhance our response to this historic public health crisis.”
The COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership will bring together a coalition of leaders from local hospitals, community clinics, medical research centers, public health departments and foundations, and local businesses to support the ongoing public health efforts throughout the Paso del Norte region to slow and stop the spread of coronavirus, and treat those who have already been impacted by this virus.
The partnership, which is fully funded through private donations and at no cost to taxpayers, will also:
- Provide critical resources to protect the public and our essential workers on the front lines of this battle — especially healthcare workers and employees of other essential businesses such as utilities, grocery stores, restaurants and the regional medical device manufacturing industry
- Work with city and regional officials to coordinate care and enhance communication among the many healthcare and non-healthcare organizations stepping up to help
- Tackle this pandemic as a region, creating a coordinated and seamless response between El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and Las Cruces.
“As we face one of the most catastrophic health and economic crises in recent history, we are employing the public health principles of robust collaboration and coordination to keep our region safe,” said Emma Schwartz, MPH, President of the Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) Foundation.
“Battelle is an institution that has taken a lead in helping the U.S. Federal government, as well as other communities and institutions respond to the pandemic. Through this partnership we will be able to closely monitor what’s working, where we have to make some adjustments, and how we can quickly respond to new challenges and get information and resources into the hands of our public health community. Enhanced coordination, communication and education are key to an effective response, and we are fortunate that this partnership will create a structure to coordinate the great assets and capabilities that we already have in this region, such as our government agencies, institutions of higher education, non-profits, associations, private companies, maker spaces, and so many others”
“We are excited to partner with the City of El Paso and these binational health foundations to enhance how this region is responding to the health and safety needs of this bi-national, tri-state region,” said Dr. Nicole Brennan, Director of Health Research at Battelle, who has been stationed in El Paso as part of this new partnership.
“Through the partnership, we are evaluating testing, personal protective equipment, triage and monitoring plans, hospital surge capacity planning, bi-national coordination and communications. One of our first orders of business is to make sure that we are able to get the right types of protective equipment into the hands of the nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, and others in the region who are at high-risk for infection.”
One unique feature of this new public-private partnership is the technical assistance and support that Battelle will be providing in responding to COVID-19.
Battelle has already worked with Ohio Department of Health in their response to coronavirus, are conducting in-vivo and in-vitro lab work for the Federal Government to test and evaluate COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines, and recently received FDA approval of a new personal protective equipment (PPE) decontamination system.
At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers.
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries.
“In order for us to truly stabilize and control the spread of this virus, we must think and act regionally. What happens in Ciudad Juarez impacts El Paso and vice versa, so one of the goals of this partnership is to create a regional response to COVID-19,” said Tracy Yellen, Chief Executive Officer of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.
“We want to maximize and deploy our resources across the region, and that requires all of us to act collectively in our response.”
Earlier this week, Mayor Margo also announced the creation of the Economic Task Force, a group of business and community leaders who will focus on developing strategies to safely reopen El Paso businesses and get residents back to work.
The COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership will work in tandem with the Economic Task Force to mitigate the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
The Economic Task Force is chaired by Rick Francis, chief executive officer of WestStar Bank, who was also appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to serve on the “Strike Force to Open Texas.” Kristina Mena, Ph.D., dean of the University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health El Paso Campus, is also serving as an expert adviser to Dr. John Zerwas, Executive Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Texas System, for his participation in the Strike Force.
Francis and Mena are members of the Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership. Collectively, their participation will ensure coordination between local and state efforts.
“This public-private partnership offers an opportunity to leverage best practices and re-affirms our community’s commitment to implement promising processes,” said El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “Although we are undergoing an incomparable period, the City is committed to staying focused on our obligation to our residents to promote a healthy, productive and safe community.”
Additional information about the COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership will be made available by the City of El Paso in the coming days.