Penn State Health issues apology to MS neurology patients for letter about staffing challenges

Penn State Health is sending a letter of apology to 2,100 patients of the neurology practice at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, reassuring them that staff and providers will support their care needs despite staffing challenges specifically related to multiple sclerosis (MS) care.

Patients will receive a letter this week that apologizes for an initial letter sent on April 17, which advised them to seek alternate care for their MS. The letter cited the departure of four MS neurology providers, two to retirement and two others to positions at organizations outside the region.

In the new letter patients will receive this week, Department of Neurology leaders state:

“We should have assured you that despite these staffing challenges, our practice remains open to you—whether you are an MS patient or are being seen for some other neurological concern. Our staff is committed to working with you and your family to make sure your care needs are met. In our haste to get you this information about the care we provide to you, we neglected our larger role of caring for you. For that, we want to say we are sorry. And we want to tell you what we are doing to make it right.”

Penn State Health mailed the new patient letter to patients today (April 30).

While staffing challenges remain for MS services in Hershey, Penn State Health wants to reassure its patients and the community that its clinical leaders have a plan to meet MS care needs in both the short and long term.

In the short term, Penn State Health has organized a team of providers to help MS patients with needs such as medication monitoring and management, related lab or imaging tests and urgent appointments for flare-ups of their illness.

Long term, the goal is to rebuild the MS neurology service’s capacity to continue as the primary caregiver for all patients seeking MS care from Penn State Health. This will take time, but the department is focused on a priority of future care.

The MS neurology service has established a dedicated team of staff and providers to answer patient questions, schedule any needed appointments or help get MS medication refills ordered. Patients may call the MS Care Line at 717-531-3828 Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and select # to be directed to an MS care coordinator.

Penn State Health is also emphasizing that this provider shortage is only affecting its MS neurology service and not any other Penn State Health neurological or neurosurgical program. Penn State Neurology employs a team that includes 27 physicians, two neuropsychologists and nine advanced practice clinicians with expertise to care for patients with a variety of neurological issues, including stroke, ALS, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and cognitive disorders, among other issues. If patients see any other Penn State Health neurology or neurosurgery service provider, they have no reason to be concerned about any changes in their care.

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The letter sent to patients on April 30 reads as follows:

Dear patients,

We made a mistake, and we want to make it right.

We recently sent you a letter about some staffing challenges at our neurology practice on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center that provides care to patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other conditions. In this letter, we said your provider was no longer with our organization and advised you to seek alternate care options.

We should have assured you that despite these staffing challenges, our practice remains open to you— whether you are an MS patient or are being seen for some other neurological concern. Our staff is committed to working with you and your family to make sure your care needs are met.

In our haste to get you this information about the care we provide to you, we neglected our larger role of caring for you.

For that, we want to say we are sorry. And we want to tell you what we are doing to make it right.

Please understand that our MS staffing challenges remain, caused by retirements and departures of physicians. We want you to know that our clinical leaders have a plan to meet your MS care needs in both the short and long term.

  1. In the short term, we have put in place a team of Penn State Health providers able to help you with MS-related needs such as medication monitoring and management, related lab or imaging tests and urgent appointments for flare-ups of your illness.
  2. Long term, our goal is to rebuild our capacity to continue as your primary MS caregiver. This will take time, but our most important priority is your future care.

If you are a non-MS patient who was previously treated by one of the physicians who have left Penn State Health, your care will continue with another provider at our neurology practice.

We have established a dedicated team of staff and providers to answer your questions, schedule any needed appointments or help get medication refills ordered. Please call us at 717-531-3828 Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and select # to be directed to one of our care coordinators.

You matter to us. We sincerely apologize for the concern our initial letter caused, and we pledge to do better going forward. We ask that you give us an opportunity to earn your trust back.

Dr. Krish Sathian, Chair, Department of Neurology

Dr. Stephen Ross, Vice Chair, Department of Neurology

April 30, 2018 Penn State Health News

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