Commentary: Bayhealth honors hard-working, vital teams

By Terry Murphy

The vital role of healthcare has become very evident over the past several weeks. I have never been prouder to be part of the Bayhealth team who has stepped up in ways that might have seemed unimaginable six months ago. They have demonstrated courage and heroism in the face of this new challenge and have done extraordinary work.

The truth is they have always been our heroes, but this epidemic has brought national attention to the vital role each of them play in caring for the health of our community.

Terry Murphy

I wanted to share some examples of how the Bayhealth team has adapted during this crucial time. 

Nursing met the challenge: This health crisis has allowed our nurses to step up and care for their patients like they always knew they could, and to do so tirelessly, selflessly, and proudly. From taking the initiative to conserve PPE and other materials early on, the Bayhealth nursing staff have come together to improve outcomes for all involved. They have also worked different shifts, moved into new areas, helped educate patients on the importance of hand hygiene and other protective health measures, and learned how to increase communication across the organization.

New daily routines were implemented: All hospital team members and guests now arrive through the main entrance, must wear a mask, and are screened each day for COVID-19. All who enter are asked the same series of screening questions and have their temperature taken before reporting to their department. Screening protocols are also applied at off-site locations for everyone’s protection. 

Many Bayhealth team members, including ones in clinical and non-clinical roles, have had to modify how they go about their daily work. Some have worked together to think outside the box to either create or identify suitable substitutes for critical supplies and materials that were plentiful before the pandemic began and are now in high demand and difficult to find.

Others collaborated to come up with new processes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to deliver exceptional care and services to our patients and our community.

Our medical staff raised their hands: As we prepared for the anticipated surge of patients, we knew additional medical staff would be needed in the hospital to care for patients. Over 130 Bayhealth employed and affiliated physicians and allied health professionals in private practices stepped up to help. For some, taking on a new assignment also meant brushing up on or learning skills so they would be ready for a role that may be different than what they were accustomed to.

Similarly, with the virus disrupting normal operations for many medical facilities, telehealth services became popular. When the threat of COVID-19 prompted doctor’s offices to postpone routine office visits, it became clear Bayhealth’s telehealth platform that was scheduled to launch later this year needed to be set up more quickly to give physicians another option to safely treat patients. Bayhealth team members across several departments worked together to make that happen.

Team members were redeployed: Since the pandemic began many Bayhealth employees have been reassigned to new roles. Some became the Bayhealth’s Coronavirus Management Team (CMT), which is made up of clinical staff from across the organization. The CMT began operating on March 16 with the launch of the COVID-19 pre-screening hotline, and it has screened more than 10,000 people. In partnership with the CMT, drive-thru testing was established in Kent County and other clinicians and support staff stepped away from their normal duties to serve in this critical role. When the State of Delaware identified Sussex County as a “hot spot” for COVID-19, Bayhealth joined other healthcare partners to offer community public testing where it was needed most.

Others filled the new position of communication tech, which was created to help facilitate communication between patients, their families, care partners, and staff. These team members provide assistive devices with video capability, such as tablets, as well as preferred language accessibility to patients so they can stay connected with their loved ones beyond a simple phone call.

Innovation has prevailed: Bayhealth is now using plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat those who are severely ill with the virus. Candidates for plasma donations are individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and have been symptom-free for at least 14 days, and who meet other typical blood bank requirements. Donors can give plasma multiple times at appropriate time intervals. One Bayhealth employee, Lindsey Locke, recently became a plasma donor and shared how rewarding it was to give back to help others.

Other team members have been involved with projects stemming from businesses in our community adapting to support critical needs. One example is our Clinical Engineering department partnering with Bloom Energy to refurbish hundreds of ventilators for the State of Delaware.

Along with telehealth visits and using technology to stay connected with loved ones, our Bayhealth team and members of our community have embraced other virtual communications over the past several weeks, including joining us on social media for our weekly live COVID-19 updates and moments of prayer and meditation

You have been there: Whether it’s been through joining us in a moment of prayer, donating food, medical supplies, and so much more, we have appreciated your generosity and support through it all.

As we celebrate National Nurses Week and National Hospital Week, please take a moment to remember the sacrifices our healthcare heroes are making every day for each of us and our community.

Terry Murphy, FACHE, is president and chief executive officer of Bayhealth.