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Midstate hospitals detail plans for coronavirus

WellSpan announced on Thursday that it will be using a temporary outdoor patient screening and testing area for patients who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus. PHOTO/PROVIDED

The midstate has yet to see its first positive case of coronavirus but with the state’s total number of cases rising to 21 and over 1,200 cases of COVID-19 nationwide as of Thursday morning, area hospitals are looking at which of their employees can work remotely and how many employees their departments need to still operate.

In anticipation for the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its list of infection prevention and control recommendations.

The recommendations ask health care providers to minimize the chance of further exposure to the virus by limiting the points of entry to a facility, instruct patients to call ahead before arriving at a facility if they develop the symptoms of a respiratory infection, prioritize patients with respiratory symptoms and practice the use of hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, eye protection, gloves and gowns.

Local hospital systems have already relayed this information to their staff as early as January and have implemented their own contingency plans to keep employees from contracting coronavirus and spreading it further.

Below is a list of statements from area systems on how they will be handling the virus in relation to their employees:

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health

Penn Medicine will be working with its management teams to determine which of its employees should be working remotely either on a full-time or limited basis, said John Lines, director of public relations and corporate communications for the Lancaster hospital.

“Teams are meeting daily throughout our health system to ensure staff at our physician offices, urgent care sites, emergency department and inpatient settings are prepared to care for coronavirus patients,” Lines said. “As demand for our services evolves, we will ensure the appropriate level of staffing, as well as adequate supplies of respiratory protection, gowns, gloves and other equipment to protect our clinical staff for patient care.”

Penn State Health

The Hershey-based system is utilizing a 14-day self-quarantine for any employees who have traveled to countries with active transmission of COVID-19. Penn State Health plans to continue its normal operation procedures for as long as possible, but has plans in place to manage patients with special illnesses.

Employees can utilize their disability and leave benefits if a sustained outbreak occurs, said Barbara Schindo, media relations specialist at Penn State Health.

“We are continuously reviewing our policies about pay practices and sick time as the situation evolves,” Schindo said. “Should any employees need to take leave because of suspected or confirmed COVID-19, our Employee Health Department will work with affected employees to ensure they return to work at a point when it’s safe for the employee, their colleagues and our patients.”

WellSpan Health

WellSpan is actively developing contingency plans for the York health system that include deciding what levels of staff are needed to support its care facilities and support departments.

The system is limiting group meetings, discontinuing business-related travel beyond its service area and will also be looking into which of its employees can work from home.

WellSpan is still assessing which of its employees would best serve the organization by working remotely and will be announcing further plans in the event that the virus begins to spread into the region, said William Lavery, a spokesperson at WellSpan.

WellSpan announced on Thursday that as part of its response to COVID-19, the system is developing a temporary outdoor patient screening and testing area.

“Doing screening and testing in an open-air setting limits the potential spread of the disease and will help us preserve our negative airflow rooms in our hospitals,” said Dr. R. Hal Baker, senior vice president of WellSpan Health.

UPMC Pinnacle

UPMC Pinnacle’s parent organization, Pittsburgh-based UPMC, has suspended all business travel to China and Italy and is requiring all employees returning to the U.S. after traveling to areas with sustained transmission to be evaluated before returning to work.

A small number of UPMC Pinnacle’s staff has already been self-quarantining at home due to known exposure and compliance with guidance from public health authorities, said Kelly McCall, public relations director at UPMC Pinnacle.

Members of staff who are voluntarily self-quarantined can work from home if appropriate.

Geisinger Holy Spirit

Employees at Geisinger Holy Spirit are recommended to stay home if they are experiencing a fever, cough of shortness of breath. Geisinger teams have been formulating a contingency plan since January, which includes following CDC’s guidelines.

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at ipashakis@bridgetowermedia.com.

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