AlumniApr 16, 2020Campus News
By: Jack Lynch '83

Something Found in COVID-19: Human Moments

Jack Lynch '83 writes about his experience during the COVID-19 crisis as president and CEO of Main Line Health.
Something Found in COVID-19: Human Moments
Since the arrival of COVID-19 to our region in early March, our MLH spirit has undergone the ultimate test.

As the president and CEO of Main Line Health (MLH), I have the honor and privilege of working with more than 12,000 employees and medical staff members who comprise one of the Delaware Valley’s largest health systems. In the summer of 2019, we launched a new brand campaign to capture the essence of the MLH spirit and to differentiate the experience our team strives to deliver. The foundation of the campaign was crafted after dozens of interviews with team members from across the organization to explain what drives us at MLH; to describe the values we bring forth every day to make MLH the best place to both give and receive care. This work resulted in a brand narrative that defines our promise to see, hear and connect to each of our patients as individuals, and our belief that Health Care is Human Care. 

Since the arrival of COVID-19 to our region in early March, our MLH spirit has undergone the ultimate test. While the Philadelphia region, in general, had the opportunity to learn from areas severely hit with less time to plan (such as Seattle and New York City) we at MLH treated some of the earliest cases on the East Coast. In fact, Montgomery County, located directly in our service area, saw among the first COVID-19 cases in the state and by mid-March, our campuses had treated close to 20-30 percent of all the cases in Pennsylvania.

With the early signs that COVID-19 had infiltrated our communities, we implemented our incident command structure across the System and began comprehensive planning, and 24/7 coverage to ensure a coordinated response across our five hospitals. The safety of our patients, team and community always remains at the crux-of our planning and decision making. Key areas of focus for us over the past six weeks included:

  • Changing processes and procedures: This included canceling elective surgeries, implementing screening checkpoints, and the suspension of volunteer services and visitor restrictions.
  • Procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our team: Our Logistics team has literally scoured the globe to ensure our team is appropriately protected, and we secured shipments from around the world. While we believe we currently have sufficient supply, our responsibility as health care leaders is to ensure responsible and prudent use to conserve as much PPE as possible for the duration of the pandemic.
  • Securing and deploying testing for the community: The MLH team was one of the first in the state to establish drive through testing for those who were ill, but did not need emergency level care. Likewise, we worked doggedly to secure rapid testing for our inpatients—this type of testing is key to appropriately managing patients and protecting our team. To date, we have tested almost 7,000 community members.
  • Surge planning: Our team has created predictive modeling to anticipate when our area could experience the highest volume of cases. In order to serve as many in our community as possible, we worked extensively on a three-tiered surge model that allows us to scale our bed capabilities and use non-traditional patient areas, like large conference rooms, should it be necessary. When fully activated, we could care for 1,600 inpatients across MLH.
It’s those by the bedside — our heroes directly battling this silent enemy — whose work surpasses all expectations.

I am incredibly proud — and forever grateful to — our administrative team for their dedication, ingenuity, collaboration and exhaustive efforts to ensure we are operationally prepared to serve the community when they need us most. However, it’s those by the bedside — our heroes directly battling this silent enemy — whose work surpasses all expectations. These brave individuals on the front lines who provide critical care, serve as family for those patients who have none, and create a safe and clean environment are the ones who truly embody the concept that health care is human care. Despite their own fears and facing so many unknowns, these crusaders “suit up” every day, committed to saving as many possible. In the span of a day, they experience sorrow and triumph, but in response to every situation, they respond with strength and grace.

Take for instance Lindsey, a nurse caring for a COVID-19 hospice patient. As the virus took this patient’s life, several family members visited throughout the day, but all had just gone home for the night.  Due to the set-up on the unit, Lindsey was able to see directly into the patient’s room from the nurses station. Within a short span of time, she noticed an acute change in her patient's status. She gowned as quickly as possible to enter the room and spend the last 3-4 minutes of her patient’s life by their side.  When the physician called the family to share the news of their loved one’s death, she was also able to offer the solace that Lindsey was present at the bedside… their parent did not die alone. 

While we mourn those taken by COVID-19, we also celebrate our survivors. Such as when one of our Hospital teams arranged a joyous farewell for a patient who spent more than 20 days in the Intensive Care Unit, on a ventilator. Just as the lives that are lost leave scars on our team, this patient, too, leaves an indelible imprint on our front-line heroes. It is these moments that offer a revitalizing reminder of why we are in this work, after all. While there can be profound sadness in health care, there is also unforgettable joy.

These moments demonstrate compassion and empathy that represent not only the MLH spirit but the human spirit. This pandemic has taken lives, upended the financial infrastructure of our nation, and altered daily existence as we have known it for so long. But it’s also given something to us … these human moments. Moments that demonstrate the goodness of humanity. Moments that allow our faith to shine. Moments that give us strength and hope for a future that is far brighter than we could have possibly imagined.

Jack Lynch '83 is president and CEO of Main Line Health.
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