Grants of more than $50k given in support of LGBTQ+ Lancastrians

The recently launched LGBTQ+ Giving Circle has announced $57,500 in grants to support LGBTQ+ Lancastrians. 

Projects being funded by the LGBTQ+ Giving Circle include empowerment programs for transgender individuals, events that increase awareness and equality for LGBTQ+ families who are adopting, and a stage production on Queer voices. 

“On behalf of the entire LGBTQ+ Giving Circle advisory committee, we were so impressed by the creative and intersectional initiatives proposed by many of our grantees,” advisory committee member Todd Snovel said in a release. 

“We share our appreciation to all our donors, and we are excited to partner with organizations providing support and celebrating the visibility of LGBTQ+ communities across Lancaster County.” 

The LGBTQ+ Giving Circle was formed in October 2022 by local volunteers and donors to raise awareness and address the needs of Lancaster’s LGBTQ+ communities. An advisory committee was created to guide the giving circle. 

Projects that directly impact causes within local LGBTQ+ communities were considered. Nine organizations received between $2,500 and $10,000. 

Following is a list of the project summaries: 

  • Adoptions From the Heart Lancaster, $3,000 – Adopting a Baby as an LGBTQ+ Family. 
  • Eastern PA Trans Equity Project, $10,000 – Empowerment Programs for Transgender Individuals. 
  • Ephrata Performing Arts Center, $9,000 – Queer Voices Staged Reading Festival. 
  • Lancaster General Health, $2,800 – Sexual Health Service Expansion. 
  • Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition, $2,500 – Infrastructure and Capacity Building Consultation. 
  • Landis Valley Associates, $7,700 – Summer Flourish: LGBTQIA+ Growth and Skill-Building 4-Day Workshop. 
  • LGBT Center of Greater Reading, $7,500 – Rivertown Pride Center: Service Provision. 
  • LGBTQ Community Center Coalition of Central PA, $7,500 – Common Roads: Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in Lancaster. 
  • Demuth Foundation, $7,500 – Demuth Museum Reinterpretation Plan Inclusive of LGBTQ+ Themes. 

The grants awarded are the first by the LGBTQ+ Giving Circle.

Penn Medicine LGH’s Ripchinski named to state medical board 

Michael Ripchinski. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, was recently appointed to the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine. He was nominated by Gov. Tom Wolf and unanimously confirmed by the state Senate on Feb. 9. 

The board regulates the practice of medicine through the licensure, registration and certification of members of the medical profession in Pennsylvania, including medical doctors, physician assistants, radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, nurse-midwives, acupuncturists, practitioners of oriental medicine, perfusionists, behavioral specialists and athletic trainers. 

In addition, the board reviews the facilities and qualifications of medical colleges, and other medical facilities outside the commonwealth whose trainees or graduates seek licensure, certification or graduate medical training in the commonwealth. 

“Dr. Ripchinski brings an array of practical knowledge to the board and has done an outstanding job of communicating to the public throughout the pandemic, including his efforts to promote the availability, safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Pennsylvania’s Acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter said in a release. 

Ripchinski is board-certified in family medicine and clinical informatics, and practices at Walter L. Aument Family Health Center in Quarryville. 

Area health system executives weigh in on COVID-19 and the future of care 

Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, moderated a panel featuring Philip Guarneschelli, president of UPMC in Central Pa.; John Herman, CEO of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health; Steve Massini, CEO of Penn State Health; and Carrie Willetts, senior voice president of WellSpan Health during the 22nd Annual Health Care Forecast Breakfast.

Amid yet another rise in COVID-19 patient numbers in hospitals, the midstate’s hospital systems recognize that they will need to continue to reinvent everything from how they deliver care to the part they play in the supply chain. 

Executives from Penn State Health, WellSpan, UPMC in Central Pa. and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health met this week to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on their hospitals and staff and how their systems will continue to evolve in the coming years during the Central Penn Business Group on Health’s 22nd Annual Health Care Forecast Breakfast. 

The pandemic left several issues in its wake for area hospital systems including staffing issues and patients with high acuity illnesses from being unable to be seen during the pandemic. 

Today those problems have been exacerbated by a sharp increase in COVID-19 patients, most of whom are unvaccinated, said the hospital system leaders. 

“In our seven hospitals today, we have 226 COVID patients—15% to 16% of them are vaccinated,” said Philip Guarneschelli, president of UPMC in Central Pa. “The recent increase in COVID– we’ve seen it [drop] to almost zero and then back up to the hundreds. Along with that is your normal seasonal volume, which you start to see coming up on winter. Third, we believe there is a lot of volume coming from folks that delayed care.” 

Steve Massini, CEO of Penn State Health, asked employers to encourage their staff to get vaccines. 

“Our hospitals are busting at the seams and there are a lot of patients that don’t need to be there. It could be avoided,” said Massini, going on to note that if there was one positive from the pandemic, it was how systems stepped up to expand telemedicine to patients.  

“As an industry, it was almost embarrassing what we did with telehealth. There was no reimbursement,” he said. “We had not embraced it and today we are catching up to what everyone else has been doing in the country in other industries. We can’t let it go away.” 

To compound the issue of today’s overly filled hospitals, the Great Resignation is hitting systems hard, with many nurses either deciding to find a new career or retiring, said Guarneschelli. Many young nurses are also leaving their hospitals to become travel nurses, seeking higher pay, he added. 

That loss in talent means that systems will need to be more proactive, talking to students from an early age about the benefits of health care, something that wasn’t necessary in years prior. 

“We are typically not an industry that looks at creative ideas for employees. All of that is changing overnight,” said Guarneschelli. 

Despite the need for more staff today, hospital systems are on a path of being more asset light and technology and intellect heavy, said John Herman, CEO at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. 

Guarneschelli added that UPMC is doing this by consolidating its practices into larger sites so that patients can see multiple specialists at one location, something other area systems are also working towards. 

“We will be asset lighter, we won’t be closing assets, but we will be technology and intellect heavier,” said Herman. When asked if there is still opportunity in the region for consolidation, Herman added that systems still have opportunity to find further efficiencies in the coming years. 

“We are still on the curve of understanding and exploring ways that we can deliver care in a more efficient way,” he said. “My hypothesis is that we will continue to see the aggregation of health care organizations across the region and the nation.” 

The coming years will also see systems need to continuously think about value, something that was reflected in each of the system leaders during the roundtable. 

“We are reimagining health care not unlike other systems by trying to disrupt how we provide care and think differently but also leverage technology to improve access and leverage cost for our communities,” said Carrie Willetts, senior vice president of WellSpan Health and market president for WellSpan’s east region. “Our vision will see us partnering and reimagining how we create access points and value for our patients in new and different ways.” 


New CEO to join LG Health in March


A CEO for a New Orleans-based hospital system is set to join Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health as its next CEO when current president and CEO, Jan Bergen, retires this March.

Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Health System announced on Thursday that John Herman, CEO of the North Shore Region of Ochsner Health system in New Orleans, will succeed Bergen at Penn Medicine when he takes the role on March 1.

The health system first announced Bergen’s retirement in August, noting her retirement date as January of this year. She will now continue as president and CEO until March 1, and will remain with LG Health until March 30 to ensure a smooth leadership transition, Penn Medicine wrote in a press release.

Herman has over 15 years of experience in executive positions at hospital systems including COO positions at two different Catholic Health system hospitals in Western New York and most recently as CEO of the Northshore Region at Ochsner Health System for over two years.

Prior to his current role at the New Orleans hospital system, Herman served as COO for the 767-bed Ochsner Medical Center, where he led more than 2,500 clinical and non-clinical staff, according to the release.

“John’s strong belief in the power of integration to drive healthier communities and his demonstrated experience leading within organizations committed to integrated care across large systems make him well-prepared to sustain and enhance LG Health’s exceptional care of patients in our region,” said Kevin Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Under Bergen’s leadership, LG Health has expanded Lancaster General Hospital and opened its 126-bed Lancaster Behavioral Health System.

The system currently oversees three hospitals, more than 60 physician practices, dozens of ambulatory facilities and more than 624 physicians and advanced-practice professionals.

“Under her outstanding leadership, LG Health strengthened its nationally recognized excellence in patient care, and its relentless commitment to improving the health and well-being of all in our community. For this and so much more, Jan has our profound gratitude,” said D. Michael Wege, chairman of the LG Health Board of Trustees.

Lancaster General Health to welcome new CFO

Charmaine Spence Rochester – PHOTO PROVIDED

The former CFO of Penn Medicine’s Chester County Hospital will be taking the role of CFO of the Philadelphia system’s Lancaster General Health hospital at the end of the month.

Charmaine Spence Rochester has led Penn Medicine’s Chester County hospital for the last three years as its CFO and senior vice president of finance and will now take on the role of CFO in Lancaster, Penn Medicine announced on Thursday.

Spence Rochester replaces F. Joseph Byorick, who held the role since 2016. Byorick announced he would retire earlier this year.

During her time in Chester County, Spence Rochester was a key partner in strategic plan development, budgeting, forecasting and operational efficiency for the hospital, according to a statement from Penn Medicine.

Spence Rochester is expected to take the new position on Nov. 30. She brings more than 28 years of financial experience to the position, including more than 16 years in health care financial leadership. She holds an undergraduate degree in accounting from Howard University, a master’s degree in business administration from Florida Atlantic University and a Doctor of Health Administration degree from Central Michigan University.

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.

Here’s where midstate hospital systems are expanding

WellSpan’s incoming addition to WellSpan York Hospital, an eight-story tower created to expand the hospital’s inpatient services, is not the only major project the system is working on. In fact, the midstate is currently brimming with new projects in the works from all of the area’s major players.

Below is a list of those projects and when they are expected to be finished:

UPMC Pinnacle

UPMC Pinnacle West Shore: An expansion to the system’s 102-bed, Hampden Township, Cumberland County hospital is expected to add 54 beds,  expand the emergency department and add operating and private patient rooms. Part of the expansion will open in June.

UPMC Outpatient Center, Hanover: UPMC plans to consolidate its outpatient services with a new outpatient center in West Manheim Township, York County. Projected opening date: spring.

WellSpan Health

WellSpan York Cancer Center: Construction began in August on an expansion to WellSpan’s Cancer Center at the system’s Apple Hill Health Campus in York Township. The 67,000-square-foot addition to the center will consolidate the system’s oncology services and is expected to open in spring, 2021.

WellSpan Heart & Vascular Center: WellSpan broke ground on a new heart and vascular center adjacent to its Apple Hill Health Campus in June of last year. The new building is expected to bring the system’s cardiovascular services under one roof. Opening is planned for winter, 2021.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health

Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute: LG Health is in the process of adding proton therapy to its Lancaster-based cancer institute. The expansion will allow the institute to grow its general research and clinical trial capabilities. Opening is planned for the fall of 2021.

Lancaster General Hospital Emergency Department: Prepared to face an increase of emergency department visits with the closure of UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster in early 2019, LG Health completed a $3 million temporary expansion to its emergency department last summer. The system also announced in April that it was looking at three possible expansions to the hospital. They hope to begin construction this winter.

Penn State Health

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Emergency Department: The system completed the first phase of a two-part expansion at its emergency department in May. The second phase of the project is slated for this summer.

Penn State Children’s Hospital: A three-floor addition to Penn State Health’s children’s hospital in Derry Township, Dauphin County, that began in 2018 is set to be completed this fall. The 126,000-square-foot expansion will provide space for a new labor and delivery unit, post-partum patient rooms and a new neonatal intensive care unit.

East Hempfield Township hospital: Penn State Health plans to break ground on a new acute care hospital in East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, this year. The new facility is proposed for 30 acres near the intersection of State Road and Harrisburg Pike.

Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center: The system’s newest hospital is under construction in Hampden Township, Cumberland County, with a completion date of summer, 2021. The facility will include 108 private beds and more than 300,000 square feet of space.

CocoaPlex outpatient care: In November the system announced it will expand its medical services in Hershey’s CocoaPlex Center in the former theater. The additional outpatient services will open later this year.

This story is a companion piece to WellSpan details new expansion to York hospital.

Lancaster lab accepting applications for health care startups

Eight health care startups will show their products to a team of insurance and health care experts at the Smart Health Innovation Lab in Lancaster next year.

The lab’s 12-week program is taking applications from businesses ready to put their health care products on the market.

Participants will test the products in a simulated hospital room, apartment and doctor’s office and work with experts to reach goals like getting a product into hospitals or creating a reimbursement model with an insurer.

“If you have a market-ready product that solves a challenging care delivery problem in health care, we want to hear from you,” the lab wrote on its LinkedIn page last week. “Work with our unique team of experts to build your product’s commercialization plan, and finalize clinical workflows and reimbursement strategies.”

Harrisburg-based Capital BlueCross opened the lab in 2018 through a partnership with Lancaster General Health, Aspire Ventures, a Lancaster-based venture capital firm, and Clio Health, a health care provider looking to build a campus in Lancaster.

The lab was created to help accelerate health care technologies that can have trouble finding a foothold with providers or find coverage by insurances.

An early graduate of the program was Quebec-based Emovi, which joined the program to get help with breaking into the American market with KneeKG, a technology that measures a patient’s knee in 3D while it’s moving.

The lab is located at 100 N. Queen Street and plans to begin work with the eight startups it chooses in 2020.

LG Health opens new urgent care

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health opened its seventh urgent care facility in Elizabethtown on Tuesday. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health opened an urgent care location in Elizabethtown in its newly renovated Norlanco outpatient facility.

The urgent care, located at 418 Cloverleaf Road, is the hospital system’s seventh in the region and offers more services than a traditional urgent care facility such as concussion screening, the ability to administer IV fluid for dehydration, two treatment rooms and increased capabilities for asthma treatment and pain diagnostics.

Lancaster General Health’s other urgent care locations are in East Hempfield Township, Ephrata, Parkesburg, Lebanon, Lititz and downtown Lancaster. LG Health’s Kissel Hill urgent care center in Lititz is the only other facility with expanded services similar to the new urgent care’s offerings.

The facility opened on Tuesday and operates 14 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a part of Lancaster General Health’s Norlanco outpatient facility, which was recently renovated to include new behavioral health and cardiac services as well as an expansion to the facility’s physical therapy offerings.

The Norlanco facility also offers outpatient services like primary and specialty care, mammography and pediatric therapy as well as specialty services like behavioral health and diabetes treatment.

“(Norlanco) is the only facility in Elizabethtown where patients can see a family physician or specialist, have access to care after hours through urgent care and immediate access to advanced imaging, physical therapy and lab testing in one location,” said Jan Bergen, the system’s president and CEO. “To have a single location that offers these comprehensive, high-quality services under one roof increases convenience and improves that health of the Elizabethtown community.”

Penn Medicine to open urgent care in Elizabethtown

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health plans to open an urgent care office in Mt. Joy Township, Lancaster County, the health system’s seventh such office.

The new urgent care location is an extension of the Lancaster General Health Norlanco outpatient facility and will offer more services than Penn Medicine’s other six facilities when it opens in November.

The urgent care office’s additional services will include: the administration of IV fluid for dehydration, two treatment rooms with monitoring capabilities, concussion screening, and increased capabilities for asthma treatment and pain diagnostics.

“This will be the only facility in Elizabethtown where patients can see a family physician or specialist, have access to care after hours through urgent care and immediate access to advanced imaging, physical therapy and lab testing in one location,” Jan Bergen, president and CEO of Lancaster General Health, said in a press release. “To have a single location that offers these comprehensive, high-quality services under one roof increases convenience and improves that health of the Elizabethtown community.”

Lancaster General Health’s Norlanco facility already houses practices specializing in OB-GYN, heart health, family medicine, diabetes and endocrinology, arthritis and rheumatology, and EMG testing.

The urgent care clinic will open following renovations to the building, which are expected to be finished by November. The new location is expected to be open 14 hours a day, seven days a week and will be staffed by physicians and providers on the system’s medical staff.

Lancaster General Health has six other urgent care facilities. They are in North Cornwall Township, Lebanon County; Parkesburg, Chester County; and Lancaster, Warwick Township, East Hempfield Township and Ephrata Township in Lancaster County.