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For more than a year, CoxHealth has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health care system President and CEO Steve Edwards has appeared on multiple national news outlets to encourage vaccinations and provide a voice on why the delta variant is aggressively spreading in southwest Missouri.
The health care system has had help along the way. Springfield trucking company Prime Inc. last year issued a $700,000 donation for Cox South’s COVID-19 ward, which continues to be used off and on, officials say. The Sunderland Foundation also contributed $200,000 to the ward.
Before the pandemic began, CoxHealth made a move that would pay dividends during the pandemic with the opening of its $130 million expansion at Cox South: a tower that was completed in 2015. The health care system also has announced tens of millions of dollars in clinic investments, including a so-called “super clinic” in Springfield that’s under development at Battlefield Road and U.S. Highway 65. CoxHealth opened super clinics in Nixa and Ozark in the last year, and another is under construction in Republic, scheduled to open this fall. The organization also opened a $42 million hospital in Monett last year.
That facility expansion has prepared CoxHealth for the current and future health climates, says Max Buetow, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the system’s hospitals.
“It’s our investment in our facilities and our partnerships,” Buetow says of CoxHealth’s growth. “Facility expansion will continue to evolve in light of technology.”
Buetow credits the health care system’s employees, as well. For Springfield Business Journal’s list of the area’s largest employers, published July 19, CoxHealth was No. 1 with a reported 12,253 local employees and $5.9 billion in annual revenue.
“When you bring a top talented group together and you find yourself in a position where talent attracts talent, then you continue to create a strong workforce,” he says. “It just means we become a fixture in the broader community. That employee base is spread out over a large region.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a reality for CoxHealth and other regional health care systems, Buetow sees a “silver lining” when the area is able to come out of the crisis.
“It forced us to think differently,” he says.
A big gain during the pandemic has been in telemedicine, an already growing field of health care that Buetow says advanced several years in growth due to stay-at-home and other COVID-19 governmental orders.
“It’ll shape some of our workforce,” he says. “What’s fun for us right now is really to develop and fine-tune what those best solutions are.”
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.