Transcript: Michael Dowling on "Face the Nation," April 5, 2020

The following is a transcript of an interview with Michael Dowling, the president and CEO of Northwell Health, that aired Sunday, April 5, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Michael Dowling is the president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York state. He joins us this morning from Long Island. Thank you for joining us. 

NORTHWELL HEALTH CEO MIKE DOWLING: Thank you so much. Pleasure to be here. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know in addition to your day job, Governor Cuomo had also asked you to help increase hospital capacity across the state. This morning, the defense secretary said that about a thousand military medical professionals will be sent to New York today and tomorrow. Does that solve the problem? Is New York poised for this apex now?

DOWLING: Yes, I think we are- we're as prepared as we can possibly be. Obviously, if another resource comes in from the federal government, that is great as long as it is a resource that can help us. We have had a situation in New York where we have had federal assistance with the Comfort ship on the west side of Manhattan and the Javits Center. And up to this point, they haven't been able to take that many patients because of the criteria that they use for admission to the facility. So to the extent that they arrive here, to the extent that that can be helpful, obviously it's all great. We welcome all help, and we appreciate the offers. And if- if it all works, I think we will all be better off for it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is staffing the chief issue right now?

DOWLING: Well, staffing is always an issue because the severity of the issue- we've been in this now for a couple of weeks, and the intensive care staff, the physicians on the front lines, we have- we have to use staff over and over. We have to put staff on overtime. We are getting staff in from around the United States. We're getting staff from upstate New York. So finding the capacity is one thing. You can create the beds. That's the easiest part because you can create an ICU bed or a bed pretty much any place. And we have plenty of beds. The issue then becomes each and every day making sure that you have the right staff with the right skill levels to make sure that you can take care of the patients in the optimum way that you would want to take care of them. So, yes, staff is- is always a- an issue, but we are well-prepared at the moment. And we will be well-prepared no matter when that apex comes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

DOWLING: Whether it's this week or next week, we will be prepared.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There was a memo from Northwell, from your company published by Politico--

DOWLING: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --outlining guidance to medical staff, basically to help triage and decide who gets a ventilator and who gets to stay on one. Are we close--

DOWLING: We- we--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --at- to that point--

DOWLING: We are--

MARGARET BRENNAN: to having to make those hard decisions?

DOWLING: Yeah, we are not at that point at all. We have sufficient ventilators for the foreseeable future, and we're obviously getting more supply. And the- Governor Cuomo has been a major, major quarterback in that effort. The policy that you- you reference is a draft policy. It is something that we like to prepare for the inevitability. In case that we ever have to do something in the future, you have to have a policy prepared well in advance. I don't think we will ever get to that point, but it would be foolish to wait until you have a disaster and then try to develop the policy--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

DOWLING: --during that situation. So this is all preparation. It's just the draft. It's not happening. We hope it never happens. But if it does, we are prepared.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. If a patient has to go on a ventilator, what is the chance of survival? What are you seeing?

DOWLING: Well, what we're seeing, and I think it's across all areas, all of- all facilities, that if you go on a ventilator, there is about a 20 percent chance that you will survive. We have had obviously patients survive off ventilators, but it's about a 20 percent chance. And as you know, people are on the ventilators a long period of time. But we've had successes. And the other thing I'd just like to mention here, because I think the public sometimes gets- can get not always the right information. We've had lots of people discharged from the hospital successfully after they have been treated, many after they have been on a ventilator. So in our system alone, about three hundred people each and every day after successful treatment for the COVID virus actually go home. That is success. That's what we've got to also be talking about and thinking about and celebrating. That's the good news. And I think good news is what everybody needs right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are you telling your- your hospital workers, the doctors and nurses who- who work at all of your facilities? Do you have enough--

DOWLING: Well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --protective equipment for them?

DOWLING: Yes. We have enough protective equipment. And what's amazing here is that at times of crisis like this, charac- people's character reveals itself. You see extraordinary work being do- being done by not just doctors and nurses. You see hospitals being retrofitted to put beds where beds never before existed. You see sadness among employees when things don't go well, but you see joy and celebration when there are successes. We are seeing in many ways the best of humanity. I'm out in the- meeting with the physicians and meeting with the staff on the front lines. And I can tell you that we should sit back and say how fortunate we are to have people with that commitment, that compassion, that courage to do what it is they're doing each and every day to protect the rest of us. We are very lucky for the- with the health sect- the health care system that we have. We are very, very, very fortunate. And we should never forget about it. And so when this is all over, and when you can get close to people eventually with social distan- distancing is over with, for everybody out there, if you see a healthcare worker, especially a nurse or a doctor that has been on the front lines,--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

DOWLING: --please give them a hug. Don't do it today. Do it later because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good advice. We'll clap, we will clap--

DOWLING: --these are special, special people. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will clap for now as Dr. Fauci recommended. Thank you. 

DOWLING: Clap for now. Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Mike. Mike Dowling there of Northwell Health.