When Edward Miller took over as chief medical officer for Copper Queen Community Hospital he didn’t think he’d have to lead a hospital through a pandemic.
Miller took over as chief medical officer a year and a half ago after his predecessor retired. He had been at the hospital about two years and said he was approached about the position and agreed because he could use the opportunity to transition into an administrator role for when he is ready to stop practicing.
Currently, Miller said he spends two days of the week in the clinic and three in the admin office, before the COVID-19 pandemic the days were reversed.
“I like working with the providers like I want to be treated,” Miller said. “It’s a real terrific group of providers we have.”
Miller is certified in obstetrics and gynecology and since CQCH doesn’t have and labor and delivery unit he sees the “problem GYN patients.” He has worked in the field for 34 years, and prior to arriving in Bisbee he worked in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Miller said a majority of his career was spent delivering babies, something he doesn’t do now.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and went to medical school at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri.
Miller was going through medical school while in the Army, so he was required to spend six weeks of his summer vacation working in a hospital. He said when entering medical school he wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon, but lost interest in his first two-week rotation. It was his roommate at the time, who was in the OBGYN rotation, that convinced Miller to try it for his second rotation because of the stories and experiences he had.
“It was really fun delivering babies,” Miller said. “After that, I scheduled my courses for obstetrics and gynecology.”
Now, more than three decades into his career, Miller is happy not having to deliver 15 babies a month and being able to have a full nights sleep, since he said babies would come at the most unwanted time.
Little did he know that an unprecedented pandemic would sweep the world. Now most of Miller’s time is spent on making sure the hospital is prepared for the worse-case scenarios when it comes to the coronavirus.
Miller said he and his team started the COVID-19 discussion on March 3, within a week of the state’s first case in Tempe, to be ahead of the potential wave and influx the hospital could see. CQCH hasn’t seen the surge they had anticipated or had plans for.
“The initial concern was the healthcare system would be overwhelmed,” Miller said. “I will take all the over planning and hours and not see a surge. I’m thrilled we didn’t have to use the plan.”
Although the hospital didn’t see the surge they planed for, they still faced many of the same hardships hospitals across the country encountered. Miller said lack of testing, supplies and people in the hospital caused a number of problems for the staff.
He said the lack of use of the operating room, labs and imaging also hurt CQCH financially. Miller said the hospital has seen a 40 to 60 percent reduction in revenue.
“We haven’t laid people off, but people have had less hours,” he said. “I don’t think (the influx) is yet to come. It looks like the worst in Arizona was April 22.”