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Doylestown Health Updates House Democratic Policy Committee about COVID Experience

September 11, 2020

Co-chaired by state Representative Wendy Ullman (D-Bucks), the House Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing about the impact that COVID-19 has had on nursing homes and congregate care facilities.

Jim Brexler, President and CEO of Doylestown Health, was part of a panel providing the committee with a glimpse into how not only has COVID-19 impacted the facility, but also how regulations set forth by state and government officials are implemented and directly affect how care is delivered.

Mr. Brexler started out by driving home the message that the entire health care community is connected, a continuum of care, and that coordination and communication is key to preventing stress on any one part of the system. He noted that, therefore, policymakers cannot focus on just one area of the health care system because, when one area is stressed, it creates stress everywhere in the continuum of care.

Next, Brexler provided an outline of a case study of Pine Run Retirement Community, which Doylestown Health runs and operates. It received its first positive COVID-19 case and quickly implemented steps to minimize spread by entering into its emergency plan, contact tracing, and establishing a specialized respiratory COVID unit where patients were cohorted and staff were uniquely assigned to work.

Some of the challenges the facility faced were long wait times for testing results, from ten days to two weeks, and training of staff within the retirement community about the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Brexler noted that, in an acute care setting, PPE is regularly used and, therefore, staff is familiar with protocol while in long-term living or skilled nursing facilities it is not routine. Finally, he spoke of the challenges with, and future concern for, the supply chain of PPE, reiterating that coordination between facilities and government is crucial.

There still remain ongoing financial issues for the health care community. With early shutdowns of elective procedures and the lingering that fear patients have of returning to a health care setting, Brexler said that the financial health of hospitals and other care facilities hangs in the balance.

Also providing testimony were the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Sarah Boateng, Executive Deputy Secretary, and Keara Klinepeter, Special Adviser to the Secretary of Health. They provided a history of the guidance from the department, and how long-term care facilities are progressing through COVID-19 testing and plan to implement testing among the population. Similar to committee members, they noted concern about the upcoming winter months when outside visitation no longer can occur due to weather, resumption of schools and colleges, and the beginning of flu season. In addition to a continuous improvement process, their focus is on being data driven and monitoring community spread to inform their guidance.

This week The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) released a new analysis as follow up to an April analysis commissioned by Health Management Associates. The report notes that, six months into the crisis, between mid-March and July, hospitals incurred an estimated operating margin shortfall $5 billion below expected results—a 24 percent drop from pre-pandemic revenues.

For more information, contact Stephanie Watkins, vice president, state legislative advocacy.