Penn State Health hires former Tower Health VP to help lead Lancaster Medical Center 

Barbara Zuppa

Reading-based Tower Health’s former vice president for nursing operations joins Penn State Health as the new chief nursing officer for the Hershey-based health system’s upcoming Lancaster Medical Center on Jan. 17. 

Penn State Health announced on Tuesday that Barbara Zuppa will be heading the nursing practice and administrative, operational and financial functions of nursing and clinical areas for the Lancaster Medical Center, opening at 2160 State Road later this year.  

“We are excited that Barbara will be joining our executive team,” said Joe Frank, regional president, Penn State Health. “She is an experienced nurse executive with a passion for excellence and a strong record of improving clinical quality and enhancing patient experience. We are confident she will provide valuable leadership to our nursing teams at the new hospital that we are building to give residents of Lancaster County and surrounding communities easier access to Penn State Health’s brand of care.” 

As vice president for nursing operations at Tower Health, Zuppa provided vision and strategic direction for nursing services.  

During her tenure at the system, Zuppa partnered with the United Way of Berks County and the Reading School District to establish an adopt-a-class program that annually provides school supplies for more than 120 teachers and classes and supplies for school nurses to address student health needs. She partnered with Healthy Harvest regional fresh food bank to implement a “pound per person” challenge that provides more than 8,000 pounds of food donations annually.  

Zuppa also co-founded the Berks Regional Nursing Research Alliance, a community-based consortium with representation from hospital, academic, professional organizational and community nursing entities. 

Lancaster Medical Center is set to open with 129 beds upon opening in East Hempfield Township in late 2022 and will employ nearly 900 health care workers when fully operational. The center will feature an emergency department, specialty medical and surgical services, an imaging lab, labor and delivery and an attached medical office building for physician practices and outpatient services. 


Penn State Health taps another Tower Health exec for its leadership team


Ed Chabalowski. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Penn State Health announced that Edward Chabalowski has been named vice president of finance and Chief Financial Officer for its Berks and Lancaster County region, effective Sept. 7.

He will be the senior financial leader for Penn State Health St. Joseph and the future Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center, scheduled to be completed in fall 2022. Chabalowski will also coordinate with Penn State Health Medical Group practices in the area.

Currently CFO for two hospitals within Tower Health, he is the second executive from that system to join Penn State Health.

Claire Mooney, the president and CEO of Tower Health’s Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville and Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, will become senior vice president and chief operating officer of Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center on Sept. 13.

Chabalowski has 35 years of experience in health care finance, operations and strategy, according to a release. In 2018, he was recruited by Tower Health to lead the integration of Phoenixville Hospital into that health system, and later took financial responsibility for Pottstown Hospital. Previously, he led the integration of Community Medical Center in Scranton into Geisinger Health System.

And prior to that, Chabalowski was director of finance and later chief financial officer at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Tower Health executive joins Penn State Health to build Lancaster hospital


The president and CEO of two Chester County hospitals will be leaving her role to help lead Penn State Health’s incoming Lancaster Medical Center as its senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Claire Mooney a health care executive leading Tower Health’s Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, and Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, joins Penn State Health on Sept. 13 to help the Hershey-based system develop the new Lancaster hospital for its fall 2022 opening date.

The system’s Lancaster Medical Center is scheduled to open at 2160 State Road and will include five stories and 129 private patient beds. It is expected to employ about 700 people.

Mooney’s experience as a health care executive in Pennsylvania’s southeastern region should prove beneficial during the construction of the new hospital, Penn State Health wrote in a press release.

“I look forward to partnering with Claire in the development of a distinctive hospital that gives residents of Lancaster County and the surrounding area access to Penn State Health services without the need to make the drive to Hershey for all but the most advanced level of care,” said Joe Frank, interim regional president. “Her ability to synthesize the clinical capabilities of doctors and nurses with highly capable support staff in a way that results in high patient satisfaction scores will be instrumental in our ability to safely deliver quality patient outcomes.”

Mooney holds a doctorate in nursing practice and a master’s in leadership and health systems management from Loyola University, New Orleans. She also holds an MBA in business administration in health care from Alvernia University, Reading, and a bachelor’s in nursing from Immaculata University, Immaculata, Chester County.

Berks County hospital system CEO retires

After a year in which the nation’s hospitals struggled both financially and operationally, Clint Matthews has announced his retirement as president and CEO of the Berks County-based Tower Health.

Sue Perrotty, a retired bank executive, has been named as Matthews’ interim replacement. Perotty has been a member of the health network’s board of directors since July 2019.

If the health network needs help shoring up its finances. She would seem to be the person for the job.

According to a press release from Tower, Perrotty brings decades of leadership experience in the banking and finance industries to her new role.

Over the course of her career, Perrotty has overseen multi-billion-dollar corporate integrations, managed several mergers and advised businesses of all sizes in the Reading community, Philadelphia and beyond. The health network said she is a noted expert on corporate governance and serves as an independent director of several businesses, including the publicly traded Global Net Lease Inc.

Perrotty had a 27-year career in banking, culminating in her role as executive vice president and head of global operations for First Union Corp.

“Sue has the unique ability to empower those she works with to think big and achieve things they never would have thought possible. Combined with her listening and tremendous people skills, she makes great things happen,” said Samuel McCullough, former CEO for nearly 20 years of Meridian Bank and current chairman, president and CEO of Griffin Holdings Group LLC. “When we worked together, she was instrumental to our growth and success, and she remains a trusted confidant. Simply put, she always gets the job done and makes those around her better.”

Clint Matthews

Matthews had been with Tower Health for 10 years, taking over the CEO’s job for the health network from his role as president of its flagship Reading Hospital in West Reading.

Under Matthews, Reading Hospital acquired five hospitals in September of 2017 to become Tower health and he took the lead role in that health network.

Under his tenure, Tower created a partnership with Drexel University to develop a medical school in Reading. The health network also expanded services including the acquisition of 19 urgent care centers in 2018.

COVID-19, however, put a big hit on the health network.

In June it announced it was eliminating 1,000 positions within the health network.

At that time Matthews said that between March and May, the health network experienced a $212 million loss in revenue, roughly 40% of its revenue, because of the suspension of elective procedures caused by the pandemic.

Expenses were also up because of extra personal protective equipment and other pandemic safety protocols.

The health network closed its Pottstown Hospital Maternity Unit and closed or consolidated a number of outpatient services and practices.

Tower Health consists of Reading Hospital in West Reading; Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville; Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia; Jennersville Hospital in West Grove; Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville; Pottstown Hospital in Pottstown; and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, a partnership of Tower Health and Drexel University in Philadelphia.

It also includes Reading Hospital Rehabilitation at Wyomissing; Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences in West Reading; home healthcare services provided by Tower Health at Home; and a network of 27 urgent care facilities across the Tower Health service area.

Reading-based health network receives shipment of counterfeit N95 masks

Reading-based Tower Health said it was recently the recipient of counterfeit 3M 1860 N95 masks. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Reading-based Tower Health said it was recently the recipient of counterfeit 3M 1860 N95 masks.

The health network said it had used an alternative vendor to acquire masks when its primary PPE vendor was not able to meet its demand.

On Feb. 3, the health network was notified by 3M that it had received counterfeit masks from the supplier, which had received the masks and believed they were genuine 3M masks, but were not.

In a statement the health network said many other health care providers nationally and globally have been impacted by the receipt of the same kind of fraudulent PPE supplies.

While the masks had already been distributed at Reading Hospital and other hospitals in the network, Tower said the incident did not impact patient care, since the health network did have alternative PPE available for staff.

Tower noted that only about 12% of the counterfeit masks it received had been distributed throughout the health system before 3M notified the health system of the problem.

The remainder of the masks have been removed from inventory.

According to CBS News, U.S. Customs and Border Protection have seized nearly 15 million counterfeit N95 masks since the start of the pandemic. The concern is that such masks may not meet U.S. Health & Safety standards.

It’s called bioprinting, a medical process that could save millions

Additive manufacturing 3D bioprinting could change the future of orthopedic care and human organ transplants.

Bioprinting is a process where cells and chemicals combine to create structures resembling human tissues. Thumb joints and new treatments for knees could follow successful treatments for hip replacements, while bioprinted hearts, kidneys and livers could save lives in the face of significant organ donor shortages made worse by coronavirus.

“What’s exciting is the progress the field with this technology,” said David Reich, director of Tower Health Transplant Institute in West Reading. “There is progress, but it is a long way away” from becoming mainstream.

Innovations in 3D bioprinting are already used in some hip replacement procedures, and they are being explored for other joints in the body. The US Orthopedic Alliance website reported more than 7 million Americans required hospital care for orthopedic problems. 

Reich said enough progress has been made to use 3D printing to reconstruct outer ears damaged through trauma or for cosmetic restoration. The complex components necessary for human hearing are not yet available with 3D printing.

A Verified Market Research report posted on the Cision PR Newswire said the global 3D medical device market is expected to be worth $3.93 billion by 2027, with advances in technology and applications responsible for the surging growth.

 “There are two different directions when you start to think of health care and additive manufacturing: One is looking at existing tech and how [it] can be applied, and that is already happening,” said Brian Slocum, Lehigh University managing director of the Wilbur Powerhouse Design Labs.

The second direction is discovery and development for treatment.

Slocum said successes in additive 3D bioprinting for orthopedic metal implants like hips, are moving to other joints, such as thumbs.

“Thumb implants [are] happening in younger and younger patients, and additive is specific to the geometries [so] it can produce [results] like no other,” Slocum said.

He said 3D printed lattice structures create an “interface that goes into the bone” and when the body sees the lattice structure it actively re-grows new bone onto it.

“With this new additive process you create a texture…which makes failure less likely and [anticipates] better patient outcomes,” Slocum said.

Currently, hip replacements are selected from a limited range of stock sizes, he said, but that 3D printing could one day revolutionize the joint size-to-patient match, making replacements one-of-a-kind and specific to the patient.

According to Pennmedicine.org, an online publication of the University of Pennsylvania Covid-19 has created “…far reaching and crippling effects on health care, including life-saving organ transplants.” The report said about 112,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for an organ transplant, and donations have sharply declined since March. 

Future technologies in development now could one day save lives by helping offset shortages in human organ donation.

Transplant surgeons battle a ticking clock with viable organ donations because organs are highly perishable. Covid-19 has further complicated the process with time-consuming screening and vetting practices before surgeries can begin. 

Reich said 3D printing human organs such as livers, kidneys and hearts is much more complex and involves many different cell types and complicated functional activities. 

“Those are much more challenging to make artificially,” Reich said.

While human organ 3D bioprinting may be many years away, progress has been made in transplantation surgeries as the technology can help surgeons prior to actual transplant surgeries. Reich said using 3D bioprinting for surgery simulation was a significant step forward.

One example was a 3D printed kidney with a cancerous tumor. By using the printed kidney model as a simulation, surgeons were able to do the tumor resection prior to the patient’s actual surgery, Reich said.

“Livers are a hard thing to come by. The ability to have a new liver starts to become a really mainstream option,” Slocum said of 3D bioprinted organs. 

Lesley Chow, assistant professor of material science and engineering at Lehigh University, is working on the problem of creating a 3D printed “exact replica” of the cells needed in some health care applications.

“We come at this from a materials perspective, and we’re driven by how components are organized. We know our biological tissues have a specific organization and this organization is important for it to function,” Chow said.

While Chow conceded additive manufacturing would “never be able to make [human cell structures] as perfect as nature made [them] the first time” there is plenty of room to create substantial benefits for patient care and outcomes.

She and her team are working to synthesize “building blocks” primarily from modified bio degradable polymers.

“We are culturing cells and they are responding to multiple cues,” Chow said. 

The trick is finding the right “cue” to tell a cell to become cartilage, bone or something else. She is also doing work with stem cells to design them “to existing patient cells, so a patient’s own cells would populate the material.”

“The printer controls where these cells end up,” she said.

Chow’s team is culturing cells to see how they respond to multiple cues.

“An ideal situation would be to partner with a company who can scale up the research and get us to clinical trials in humans,” Chow said. 

Such trials could take as long as 15 years or more to yield the necessary data and information. “Every component you add in will create another variable [and] create a platform that is really powerful,” Chow said.

“The dream would be to implant something that jump starts the process and helps the cells to do it,” she said.

Leading a remote team may require you to tweak your style

What does it take to be a great virtual leader?

Clear Communication. Holding self and others accountable. Providing and being flexible while maintaining productivity and meeting deadlines.

The more the workday changes – from home offices and remote work weeks to flexible schedules, finding the best way to communicate expectations and maintain accountability and performance standards, managing virtual teams requires the same fundamentals essential to any great leadership position. 

“It brings you back to the basics of leadership- creating an environment where people feel welcome, safe and that their contributions matter”, said Katie P. Desiderio, a faculty member and executive director for graduate business programs and assistant vice president for corporate educational partnerships at Moravian College in Bethlehem.

Leadership, she says, is about human performance. 

“It [virtual working] puts you to the test. We can easily get comfortable when we are face-to-face and make assumptions about how we interact with people. Leaders move people forward, and how you are doing that in a virtual space can be a real challenge,” she said.

She said a lot of managers who fall prey to “micromanaging” their teams do so unintentionally.

“The hardest thing for adults is unlearning- now you have to unlearn those things that won’t work, especially in a virtual space,” Desiderio said.

Trust me

Effective virtual teams have trust at their core. And a good virtual team or meeting leader doesn’t have to be the traditionally assigned manager.

“You can lead from any seat. With leaders it always starts with you. Leadership starts right here, right now, when you realize the influence you already have,” she said.

Tony Grycewicz, vice president of talent management for Tower Health in West Reading, said even though virtual team leadership is different because the medium is different the same practices and techniques are the same.

Clear performance expectations and work parameters, as well as frequency of check in contacts are important in maintaining an individual’s performance, Grycewicz said. “Working from home is not easy. There is a different level of distraction and discipline,” he said.

Management styles may need some adjusting, too, according to Grycewicz.

For those who like to be active on the floor, from walking around the office to having quick informal chats, the move to working online has meant some adjustments.

“They almost have to schedule time to check-in [now, and] that has created some adjustment. For those leaders who are more regimented, they can slot those times into a calendar,” he said.

For schedulers who don’t need as much contact as their more extroverted counterparts, the virtual atmosphere may work more easily. But the more social aspects of working, such as gathering in break rooms for a cup of coffee or joining colleagues for lunch, is harder to replicate in the virtual environment.

“A box of donuts or ordering in pizza, those things are harder to do and we’re trying to find ways around that,” Grycewicz said of social connections with virtual teams at Tower.

Show vulnerability

Ken Byler, owner of Higher Ground Consulting Group LLC., in Souderton, Montgomery County, said virtual leaders need to be more vulnerable with their employees, something that makes many uncomfortable during normal conditions.

“It’s not about weakness but being able to say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I need something.’ Modeling vulnerability will build more trust in their team members,” Byler said of effective virtual leaders.

Those who can laugh off the noisy garbage truck pick-up, or remain nonplussed while a youngster runs around the room during a Zoom meeting, show others they are human. Byler said handling those displays with ease makes people more trustworthy. 

The behaviors healthy teams’ model – trust, flexibility, a common goal – are even more vital in a virtual environment. 

Handling healthy conflict is another aspect of an effective leader, whether in-person or virtual. 

“Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone. If you are used to debating [issues or processes] onsite, you have to be willing to debate virtually, too, though it may look different,” Byler said.

While some team members who need more social contact may also feel isolation more keenly, there are ways to provide interaction with remote employees.

Communication methods may need to change. Email may prove too slow, so a phone call or text message could become more effective. It’s also a more present and human contact. 

“Most managers have this idea that efficiency is the most important thing, but remote efficiency looks different,” Byler said of trying different approaches to manage virtual teams.

Be accountable

Holding one another or subordinates accountable may likely need a fresh approach, too. Byler recommends a one-on-one approach regardless of whether subordinates work on site or from a remote office.

“If you’re used to holding people accountable in team meetings by calling them out- which isn’t a good way to do that – a spouse or kids could be listening,” during a virtual session, he said.

Instead, schedule time for a virtual or old-fashioned telephone call – away from the larger team, to address performance issues. A lot of managers and team leaders don’t like accountability conversations, but allowing performance issues to persist may mean late work or missed deadlines that impact the larger team or business successes, according to Byler. 

Regardless of whether employees are conducting business on, or off, site, he said great leaders will model healthy people management practices.

Better meeting planning and facilitation will naturally create better meeting outcomes. “Most people are just trying to shift their current meeting structure to a virtual environment, and it’s a disaster,” Byler said.

To be most effective virtual meetings should focus on one or two agenda items, and encourage some healthy debate around those ideas. 

Proposed business outcomes need to have buy-in from everyone on the team and be summarized easily, so employees understand and commit to their part of the project.

“If you’re not able to make those transitions you’re going to struggle,” Byler said.

Uncertainty and isolation trigger a spike in mental health treatments

Will a new normal develop for mental health care insurance coverage as a result of Covid-19?

Better insurance coverage for phone, text and video or telehealth appointments by those seeing mental health care could be driving a spike of calls to clinicians since the coronavirus pandemic. 

“In my opinion there is at least a 20 percent increase, compared to the same period last year, in both our mental health and wellness services,” said Eduardo Espiridion, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Reading Hospital Tower Health. Espiridion attributes the spike to fear of coronavirus, joblessness and isolation resulting from stay at home orders.

Health care professionals are connecting an increase in patients to the pandemic which has created a shift aided by health care insurance for services that were not previously covered. The shift has expanded care to more people with the hope at least some of the benefits will become permanent. 

Area clinicians are seeing increased medical insurance reimbursements for telehealth services, too, as well as payment breaks to patients including waived co-pays, co-insurance and deductible fees. 

Televideo and telephone visits, along with virtual appointments have caused an increase in patients attending scheduled visits, said Laura Campbell, interim clinical director of the outpatient behavioral health clinic at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

“Patients who might have been no-shows or cancelled their appointments pre-COVID are now able to engage with us and receive the services they need,” she said.

Virtual visits by phone or video link have removed barriers for many patients – from transportation to making childcare arrangements or coordinating work appointment times, she noted. 

According to a recent report by The Washington Post about 50 percent of Americans reported the crisis is impacting their mental health, and a federal emergency hotline handing emotional distress calls reported a 1,000 percent surge in contacts in April.

“I think people are anticipating a spike and the concern is being able to handle it,” said Stacy D. Martin, a licensed psychologist in Hellertown.

Prior to Covid-19, Martin was offering telehealth visits to patients. She said the transition was easy once the crisis began. Since the pandemic and shutdown order by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Martin has retained the majority of her clients and added new ones. 

Because many insurance carriers are waiving co-pays and co-insurance and deductible costs, financial stresses associated with seeking treatment in light of job uncertainty now – and in the future – are lessened, she said.

“Insurance is now all covering phone calls, which they never did before,” Martin said.

From losing family members or friends to the virus, being away from schools and routine and the inability to celebrate milestone occasions like weddings, graduations or significant birthdays, the pandemic was taking a significant toll. 

“It’s a really big loss,” she said.

While some insurance companies were already reimbursing telehealth visits for mental health appointments, the reimbursement amount was at a lower rate than face-to-face reimbursement to practitioners. 

“Now they are reimbursing at the same rate, and the other agencies that didn’t cover it pre-pandemic, there is a huge hope this will continue,” Martin said.

Beyond convenience and flexibility, some patients respond better to telehealth services than in-office visits. “I really think it’s a great model for providing mental health treatment,” she said.

Tripp Carey’s practice was already full and he was not taking new clients prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The licensed psychologist and operator of White Oak Counseling Center in Upper Saucon Township, said some of his colleagues’ practice loads were also full. But oncecoronavirus restrictions were put in place some treatment times opened up.

“Some patients dropped care or did not feel comfortable working electronically,” Carey said.

Some new patients were motivated by the extra stress caused by the pandemic to seek help, and nearly everyone is being treated online despite the state listing mental health care an essential sector for in-person treatment.

“A lot of therapists had never done this – it was a massive shift. Lots of people were learning how to set it up and get it going,” Carey said.

But virtual therapy isn’t a magic solution for everyone. Carey said there are non-verbal cues that are lost online, and some patients don’t have the space in their homes for private appointments right now, with children home from school.

Carey suggested a hybrid model for treatment could emerge after coronavirus, especially if insurance companies continue to pay the same reimbursement fees for telehealth as they do in office visits.

Espiridion said virtual visits at Reading have increased access to mental health services. “It will complement well with the face-to-face visits to increase patient and clinician options. In the era of a pandemic, it is also a very safe way of delivering healthcare services,” he said.

Tower Health started virtual care in ambulatory locations, and all outpatient providers are were furnishing mental health care to new and established patients. 

Telemedicine consultation services to reduce staff exposure to Covid-19 were a way to meet the needs of patients while keeping everyone safer, he said. 

Outreach as a result of virtual communication could also expand services in the region moving forward. 

“This is an additional way to provide mental health services at facilities that don’t have mental health providers on their staff,” Espiridion said.

Tower Health eliminating 1,000 jobs after COVID-19 losses

West Reading-based Tower Health said it will be eliminating 1,000 jobs because of the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on its health system.

The health network said around 10% of those jobs are currently unfilled.

As part of this reduction, Tower Health will close the Pottstown Hospital Maternity Unit, and will close or consolidate certain clinical services including the THMG Reading Birth Center, select behavioral health services at Reading Hospital, the Reading Hospital occupational medicine and sports medicine programs, and two physician practices: Coventry Foot & Ankle and Premier GYN Limerick.

Clint Mathews, CEO of Tower Health said that through May, the health network experienced a $212 million loss in revenue, roughly 40% of its revenue, because of the suspension of elective procedures.

At the same time spending increase for personal protective gear and other COVID-19 related needs.

“The decision to reduce our workforce has been difficult and painful, because it impacts lives,” Matthews said in a memo to employees. “It is necessary, however, to ensure that Tower Health can continue to serve the community with high-quality healthcare in the months and years ahead.”

Impacted employees will receive severance pay and job placement assistance both within and outside the network.

Mathews said the goal of the reductions, as well as others the health network may implement in the future, is to save $230 million over the next two years.