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In case you missed it: Highlights from March 24 COVID-19 Town Hall

At the March 24 Town Hall, Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine leaders gave an overview of what’s happening across the organization to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At St. Joseph Medical Center, more than 300 patients had been tested at the drive-through test site on the Bern Township campus. The hospital has restricted visitation access and realigned entrance to the hospital only through a tented area outside the Emergency Department to allow for easier screening and triage of patients and staff. Additionally, nonessential surgeries have been postponed, and necessary imaging procedures have been triaged to outpatient locations when possible.

Incident command staff are actively working through surge plans to prepare for the potential need for many inpatient beds for COVID-19 patients. They are also reviewing with managers options for staff redeployment to support a potential surge.

Across Penn State Health Medical Group, teams within the community and academic practice divisions are working together to meet the growing demand for telehealth services. Chief Clinical Officer Peter Dillon reported a decline in visits of 40-50% as people cancel non-urgent visits to comply with recommendations for social distancing. Currently, 21 practice sites have been temporarily closed or consolidated into other practices, and changes are being made daily based on community needs and staffing availability.

At Hershey Medical Center, more than 1,500 people have been screened for COVID-19 through the Penn State Health OnDemand app, and about 500 of those received follow-up testing at a drive-through testing site at the Academic Support Building on the Hershey campus. The Highly Infectious Diseases team has been training and redeploying staff to key clinical areas to help the hospital prepare to meet the special needs of COVID-19 patients. The hospital continues working through surge plans: The Pediatric Emergency Department is now operating in the adult ED, as the Pediatric Emergency Department space is now being used for cohorting inpatient adult or pediatric COVID patients.

From a Supply Chain perspective, most of the items that staff need to do their jobs on a daily basis are available in-house, with $20 million of inventory and some 13,000 products on shelves at Penn State Health hospitals and outpatient sites. Supply chain staff are aggressively working with suppliers and vendors to secure additional items anticipated to be in short supply, such as masks, face shields and surgical gowns. See related story, “Penn State Health fast-tracks innovative answers to supply demand,” to learn how the College of Medicine’s Center for Medical Innovation is contributing to this effort by coordinating with local manufacturers to make face shield prototypes a reality to meet the current supply demand. A local distillery in the Berks region also received approval to manufacturer a special type of hand sanitizer it has made available to St. Joseph locations.

All employees are asked to help manage demand by conserving items that are in limited supply because the only way to ensure we have a safe environment for patients is to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for use.

Stay tuned to information from your manager later today and Daily Brief tomorrow for details on how your friends, family or community organizations can help fulfill or support key supply needs.

Human Resources reminds employees about previously shared information about WELL pay for time away for COVID-related issues. Employees can send non-urgent questions to Backup child care options are available in the Hershey, Lancaster and Berks areas. See mySolutions for details.

Answers to questions asked during the town hall meeting — whether they received a live response or not — will be addressed in one of two ways:

  • A NEW internal podcast—Coronavirus Q&A—will launch soon.
  • A FAQ is being refreshed daily on the dedicated Infonet page and shared via managers update messages, starting Thursday, March 26.

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