How Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono Met the Pandemic on the Front Lines
Pocono Record Op-ed: William K. Cors, MD, MMM, FAAPL
It is my honor to serve as the Chief Medical Officer for Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Pocono for the past four years, and for six years before that in a similar position for Pocono Medical Center. Despite decades of experience in the clinical practice of medicine, as well as in hospital leadership positions, nothing fully prepared us for the COVID-19 pandemic that has consumed the past year.
In February and March 2020, we began to see an influx of severely ill patients with a respiratory disease often requiring specialized care in the critical care unit. We quickly assembled clinical teams to plan for the triage and care of the many patients arriving in the emergency room requiring admission. This was unlike anything we had ever experienced, and, at first, it was unclear what we were dealing with. In time, the skilled teams and providers both at LVH–Pocono and across Lehigh Valley Health Network gathered data, collected information from other health care systems, assembled care teams and collaborated to develop care plans in real time for an illness that was largely unknown.
As a leader of LVH–Pocono, it was essential that I have the most accurate information about what’s happening on the front lines. I named a cabinet of medical staff leaders from multiple disciplines, including emergency medicine, infectious disease, internal medicine, trauma surgery, critical care intensivists, hospitalist medicine, surgery, anesthesia and nursing. We met by phone several times each week, or even daily, depending on what was happening. These trusted advisers contributed their observations, opinions and recommendations on what was required to keep this complex operation running smoothly and safely. They not only helped hospital leadership deal with the current situations, they also helped plan “what if” scenarios in the event we had to do things in a different fashion than standard operating procedure. Their counsel was invaluable throughout the height of the pandemic. There were times it felt like it would never end, but thanks to my colleagues’ hard work and input, the organization was able to safely steer the ship through the unknown waters created by the pandemic. I am totally humbled by the perseverance, dedication, commitment and resiliency of these health care professionals, and for that, I shall be forever grateful.
As the months went on, the number of cases declined with protective measures and warmer weather, but we continued to learn from one another and from medical experts around the globe what worked and what didn’t in treating this new viral pandemic.
Unfortunately, once the cold weather and the holidays approached, a second surge occurred, but this time it was a bit different. The experience we had gained showed that some treatments such as monoclonal antibodies, remdesivir, dexamethasone and high-flow oxygen could help many people from becoming more severely ill. However, despite our best efforts, some patients still required critical care, but far fewer than with the first surge.
We will get through this because now we have hope with the vaccinations that are becoming more available every day. This is the light at the end of the tunnel.
Based on my extensive research of the subject, I had no hesitation to take the COVID vaccination as soon as I was eligible to receive it. I have had both injections, and I had some mild malaise following the second shot, but that is nothing compared to what so many patients went through with the illness itself. I strongly encourage everyone – when the vaccine is available and you are eligible – to please get the vaccination to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.