Today begins a National Hospital Week unlike any we have ever experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of us at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health — and indeed our entire community — in unprecedented ways.
This year’s Hospital Week comes as health care professionals and first responders in Lancaster County and around the world are taking extraordinary measures to safely care for patients.
As LG Health takes steps toward again offering our full spectrum of services to the community, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of our health care heroes. I am deeply grateful for your extraordinary teamwork and dedication as we continue to face this historic challenge together.
I am especially impressed by the strength and resiliency of LG Health employees, who set aside their own fears surrounding COVID-19, a highly contagious virus they have never encountered before. As of this writing, 94 of our employees have tested positive for the virus, five of whom were hospitalized.
COVID-19 has impacted our employees’ lives in various ways. To minimize risk of exposure, some are living apart from their families for prolonged periods of time, sleeping in basements, recreational vehicles, hotel rooms and even shelters. Even with these precautions, some employees’ family members contracted the virus.
Our work changed significantly, virtually overnight. We now conduct routine temperature screenings of employees and patients. We care for patients in specific COVID-19 units at Lancaster General Hospital, separate from other patient-care areas, to optimize practices. Once simple tasks, such as answering a call light, now require heightened mindfulness and precautions necessary to protect our patients and staff.
Because COVID-19 patients at LGH often require intensive care, the sharpness of our employees’ clinical skills is more critical than ever. With visitation restrictions in place to protect our community, our caregivers also serve the supportive, personal roles traditionally provided by family members at the patient’s bedside.
Given these challenges, we are especially grateful for the generosity of our community. The outpouring of support and many displays of unity — from donations of thousands of hand-sewn masks to heartfelt thank-you notes from young children — are both touching and humbling. It is heartwarming to see us come together and support one another as a community during this time.
Your support will remain critical as LG Health begins to look ahead. Even before the pandemic’s arrival in Lancaster County, our focus shifted to reducing the spread of COVID-19 and preparing for a possible surge of hospital patients. As with many health systems across the country, extensive preparation efforts and the cancellation of elective surgeries and nonemergency visits resulted in an unprecedented financial impact.
While we continue testing and caring for COVID-19 patients, we are resuming elective surgeries and procedures, the first steps in a deliberate and gradual restoration of health care services temporarily paused during the pandemic. As we pivot back to our traditional role of providing a full spectrum services, we will continue delivering the same dedication to quality and safety that our community expects and deserves.
We are continuing our efforts to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. We test patients for COVID-19 prior to delivery at our Women & Babies Hospital. We also test patients awaiting surgery at our hospitals and outpatient centers. Our offices, surgical waiting areas, as well as pre- and post-operative areas will be configured to promote physical distancing. And we ask that you to wear a mask when you come into our facilities.
While we do our part, it’s very important that you to continue doing yours. Continue to practice social distancing. Wear a mask in public. Wash your hands thoroughly. By taking these simple steps to slow the spread of the virus, you help prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases at our hospitals and enable us to continue improving our community’s overall health and well-being.
Although this is a time of dramatic change for everyone, what has not changed is our commitment to advocating and providing for our community’s diverse health care needs. This Hospital Week and always, I am tremendously proud to lead such an extraordinary team of health care professionals in delivering these vital services to our community.
Jan Bergen is president and CEO of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, a system that includes this county’s largest hospital.