Edwards Lifesciences and COVID-19
While the full impact of COVID-19 on Edwards and our stakeholders will not be known for some time – and will certainly be discussed within the 2020 sustainability report next year – it is important to acknowledge how Edwards’ commitments have been influenced or heightened by the global pandemic.
The global response by Edwards’ clinician partners on the front lines of the evolving situation with COVID-19 has demonstrated strong leadership and a brave commitment. At the same time, Edwards’ incredible employees each day have continued their work. At the outset of the global spread of the virus, almost one-third of Edwards’ employees converted to remote work, transitioning our global office operations to virtual platforms almost overnight. Thousands of Edwards’ manufacturing employees continued coming to the company’s facilities around the world with extra safety precautions, to ensure the development, manufacture and delivery of our life-saving technologies to patients in more than 100 countries. The unwavering commitment of our global manufacturing employees means that structural heart patients with urgent needs have been able to receive treatment, and that the increasing number of critically ill patients have been able to be closely monitored at a time when it was needed most. We also have teams providing their support in health care facilities around the world, living our Credo: Helping Patients is Our Life’s Work, and Life is Now. In addition to sharing details about this response on our quarterly earnings call in April 2020, Edwards’ CEO also discussed it with the local business publication, Orange County Business Journal.
We are grateful to all of those in the global healthcare community responding to the needs of patients impacted by COVID-19. Edwards has published two letters in response to the ongoing global pandemic to detail some of the steps the company has taken to support employees, communities and patients, both in the short-term COVID response, and also to ensure the long-term resilience and sustainability of the company. Our risk management and business continuity planning helped provide important foundations for how to approach our company response related to COVID-19, but given the rapidly changing – and still changing – nature of what is happening around the world, it has been critical for us to maintain agility and stay in constant communication with our employees throughout.
Edwards, like others, has taken many important steps to guard against the community spread of COVID-19. We have relied on trusted health authorities, governments and local hospital policies to inform our decision-making. We implemented important measures at our facilities worldwide to ensure the safety of our employees, while also continuing our critical work in providing life-saving technologies for patients. The measures have included enhanced cleaning procedures, physical distancing in common areas at campuses, staggered work schedules and flexible, remote schedules and providing personal protective equipment such as face coverings or face masks to our employees both at our facilities and for those working in clinical settings.
For those employees who have been impacted by COVID, Edwards offers support in the form of a case manager who stays in close contact with the employee to ensure their health needs are being addressed.
We also recognize the important role and impact of Edwards’ charitable partners in meeting both local and global community needs amidst the pandemic. To respond to these needs, Edwards Lifesciences Foundation took action quickly to issue $1 million in emergency community grants to partner organizations serving on the front lines of COVID-19 and providing safety net services such as financial assistance for food, medication and rent to vulnerable communities where Edwards’ employees live and work around the world. Additionally, Edwards provided donations of critical care technologies during this crisis to help underserved patients around the world.
At our headquarters campus in Irvine, Calif., we continued the pay for our on-site café staff, even during periods where the numbers of Edwards employees on campus did not require a full staff to prepare meals and some of the staff stayed home. As needs in our community to address hunger became more evident, we engaged our café staff to prepare to-go meals for donation to local charitable organizations serving the homeless and hungry. Between April and July 2020, Edwards provided more than 20,000 meals to organizations including Mercy House: LINK, Mercy House: Costa Mesa Bridge Shelter and Illumination Foundation. The Orange County Register provided additional information on those receiving the meals. For those employees dining on campus, meals were provided free of charge or for a donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank. We continue to stay closely connected to our charitable partners to understand other ways we can help our communities.
As the pandemic continues to impact healthcare worldwide, we have concern for many patients in the areas we serve, such as those affected by heart valve disease, that are not getting treated. The reasons are varied and include fear of seeking treatment because of risk of COVID-19 in their communities, inability to get treated because procedures are being cancelled due to the strain on hospital resources or for personal economic reasons, such as job loss or lack of insurance coverage. We know that COVID-19 is deadly and has created tremendous strain on the health care system globally. But, sadly, we expect that because of this strain and associated treatment delays, some valve disease patients will worsen and not survive the delay, given the deadly nature of these chronic conditions. This is a very difficult time for structural heart patients and their doctors as they weigh the risk of COVID-19 versus the underlying progressive disease, and a number of organizations have helped to provide information to educate them as they seek care. We are committed to working together with our clinician partners, employees, governments and communities to do what we can to address this global health crisis.
We are fortunate that Edwards is a strong company and our priorities have been to focus on keeping our employees safe and helping patients and customers in need, and we have been able to continue our patient-focused innovation work around the world. We have continued hiring for our open positions globally and are focused on maintaining global supply because of the critical nature of our work. We are also working with others in our industry to identify opportunities for us to work together to impact patient care and support the needs of smaller innovators in medical technology. The dedication and passion of our employees is particularly admirable in this challenging time, and we are grateful for their commitment to serving patients and their communities, affirming their dedication to our collective work for patients, improving and enhancing lives.