COVID-19 Gives Rise to Unique Partnerships
May 18, 2020
What does airline food have to do with a children’s hospital? In a word: partnerships. To meet the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen effective partnerships form around the country. Many rival hospitals are now working toward managing the flow of COVID-19 patients. State and local governments are partnering with nonprofits and private enterprises on everything from COVID-19 testing to remote learning solutions. And now, airline caterers have partnered with St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. We asked Ron Dreskin, Principal-in-Charge of EisnerAmper’s Health Care Consulting Group, to offer his perspective on forging and leveraging partnerships during COVID-19 as he serves in the role of Interim CEO for St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
Q. Why is it essential for leaders to form and leverage partnerships?
A. Harnessing the strengths and abilities of other people and organizations, both inside and outside your ecosystem, is one of the best ways an organization can scale innovation and solve complex challenges. In health care, for example, strategic partnerships benefit everyone. Hospitals can broaden their service offerings, patients can benefit from the strengths each organization brings, and staff can benefit from being exposed to new perspectives and expertise. Partnerships foster collaboration and longevity. Now, COVID-19 has made it abundantly clear that none of us lives in a vacuum, and it will take unique partnerships to help get us through this. From pharmaceutical companies and universities working together on a vaccine to recovered COVID-19 patients offering their plasma, partnerships are more needed than ever.
Q. Can you give me some examples of partnerships you have formed as a result of COVID-19?
A. When telemedicine emerged as an alternative care solution to in-clinic visits, we had to quickly find the best provider for us (Doxy.me) and partner with them to put systems and processes in place. We also had to partner with other technology providers to enable remote work, while protecting health records and remaining HIPAA compliant. One of the most exciting partnerships has been one with Project Isaiah that benefits the families served by St. Christopher’s.
Q. What is Project Isaiah?
A. Launched in April, Project Isaiah was formed in response to the incredible food insecurity, economic uncertainty, and job loss created by the pandemic. Its mission is to deliver meals to those in need while preserving jobs. Project Isaiah partnered with Gate Gourmet, a leading airline food service provider, successfully leveraging their expertise to safely produce and deliver boxed meals at scale through its national network of airport-adjacent facilities. Project Isaiah raises funds to employ Gate Gourmet to feed the most vulnerable, including victims of domestic violence, health care workers, senior citizens, foster children, the homeless and more. They also partner with more than 100 community organizations, including St. Christopher’s, to distribute the meals. They were initially launched by a network of anonymous funders and have grown to include several sponsors, including Bank of America and Citi.
Q. What is unique about the St. Chris-Project Isaiah partnership?
A. The connection came about through one of our parent organizations, Drexel University. One of its trustees, Blair Christie, is also a Drexel University alumni and a co-founder of Project Isaiah. Drexel introduced her to St. Christopher’s, and we became Project Isaiah’s first distribution point in Philadelphia. In turn, we introduced her to other community partners as additional distribution sites to build on her networks. It’s that chain of human connections that enables big things to happen.
Q. How does St. Christopher’s intersect?
A. We are a distribution point to get meals into the hands of our most vulnerable patient-families. The meals have truly been a lifeline for St. Christopher’s community families, and they are so grateful. We also add another connection to the chain by bringing in local churches to then distribute to their needy families. It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand our reach into the community beyond health care. Our mission has always been to assist with all patient needs, including issues such as food insecurity, and this is a perfect fit.
Q. How did the sport of football get involved?
A. That’s another great example of partnerships. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and some players lent their support to Project Isaiah, raising funds and getting hands-on in distribution, including Philadelphia’s own Cris Carter, a former Eagles player. The Pro Football Hall of Fame graciously allowed Project Isaiah to operate under its existing 501(c)(3) status, allowing Project Isaiah to secure and maximize funding while mobilizing quickly as the COVID-19 crisis developed.
Q. What has Project Isaiah’s impact been?
A. Just since Project Isaiah launched in April, it has ramped up to provide 350,000-plus boxed meals each week in 11 cities. In Philadelphia alone, it is providing more than 25,000 meals every week. What’s more, it has protected more than 500 jobs by keeping Gate Gourmet’s staff working and off the unemployment rolls. These are local, U.S.-based jobs in the cities and distribution centers, like Philadelphia, where Gate Gourmet is preparing and delivering these meals.
Q. How does this project demonstrate the value of building and sustaining partnerships?
A. I cannot imagine one organization being able to scale up and respond this quickly to such great effect. Project Isaiah’s Chairman, Michael S. Klein, said it best: “During a crisis, problems must be solved in parallel. Through a unique partnership with Gate Gourmet and the dedicated work of hundreds of volunteers in our communities, as well as those leading this effort, we are reaching the people who are most in need as quickly as possible.”
Q. Anything final thoughts?
A. Project Isaiah is just one example of the power of partnerships. In this case, we had major financial institutions, sports organizations and a children’s hospital in an impoverished area working together to feed hungry families. I call that a win.