On March 16, 2020, I recorded the first staff update video detailing Frederick Health’s response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. The situation was rapidly changing, there were a lot of questions, and we needed to communicate a great deal of information to our team. Since March 2020, we have shared over 30 video updates with our team and the public. I have appreciated hearing from staff and the community that these videos have become a trusted information source, providing comfort, peace of mind and a personal connection at a time when we’re all feeling distanced.
During that first video, I shared that Frederick County had identified its first COVID-19 case. At that time, Frederick Health had sent our first dozen COVID-19 PCR (swab) tests to the Maryland State Lab. I shared that Frederick Health would be building a drive-thru community testing site within 48 hours. I spoke to supply shortages, the need to increase hospital bed capacity by 100 percent on medical inpatient units and 300 percent in our Intensive Care Unit. I also reviewed the many operational changes being made across our health care system, including the need re-deploy staff and providers — all in preparation for what may come.
In the weeks that followed, the demand for testing quickly grew. To date, Frederick Health has conducted over 150,000 COVID-19 tests. At the start of the pandemic, it took two to three weeks to get results from outside labs. We quickly realized that we needed to find a way to speed up the process and get results back to patients as quickly as possible. Thanks to the expertise of Frederick Health’s microbiology lab team, trusted suppliers and support from Frederick County government, we were able to bring in the right equipment and stand up our own processing. Today, results are back to the patient within one or two days, if not sooner.
Just 10 days after recording that first video, Frederick Health Hospital admitted its first COVID-19 inpatient. Through the spring of 2020, we cared for 20-30 COVID positive patients daily. The summer months presented a bit of relief for our team, caring for fewer than 10 COVID positive patients each day. The fall and winter months presented us with inpatient numbers higher than we had ever seen before, averaging 60 COVID positive inpatients daily through January 2021. Thanks to the dedicated and highly skilled team at Frederick Health Hospital, over 1,000 COVID positive patients have been successfully treated and discharged over this last year.
Thinking about where we were at this time last year, and seeing the immense progress made to get us to where we are today, I am so proud of the work that we have accomplished and am filled with gratitude for those who have played a role in responding to COVID-19. As we all know, progress is often accompanied by sacrifice and none of us are immune to the toll this pandemic has taken on everyone’s physical and emotional well-being.
Since March 2020, the Frederick Health team has been strengthened by an outpouring of community support. As supplies became limited, residents made cloth masks, local organizations donated gloves and other PPE, and our Auxiliary Volunteers sewed 5,000 reusable isolation gowns and made 10,000 face shields. Clinical and support staff were treated to delicious meals donated by generous members of our community. Neighbors hung messages of encouragement and thanks in their windows. Care packages, comfort items, thank you cards and so much more was delivered daily.
Health care workers have been on the front lines, fighting COVID-19 in the workplace while also adapting to the impact of COVID-19 at home. From concerns about safety and access to supplies, to adapting to telehealth to ensure our community could still access much-needed health care, to adjusting to working from home or being asked to work in new or different areas.
Throughout the pandemic, I have asked our team to be flexible in the face of the unknown and to stay connected as we navigate the situation together. I promised the Frederick Health team that their leadership would continue to focus on doing what’s right for them and the community. I am proud to say that our team has risen to every challenge, and we have retained our staff throughout the pandemic.
Vaccines are now at the top of everyone’s mind. Frederick Health has pivoted, alongside the Frederick County Health Department, to administer vaccines quickly and safely. Frederick Health has administered over 21,000 total doses to eligible members of our community and that number will continue to grow as more vaccine becomes available.
For almost 120 years, Frederick Health has been serving this community, since Emma Smith founded the original Frederick city hospital with a mission to care for the sick, comfort the injured, and provide peace of mind. I, along with the entire Frederick Health board of directors, want to thank our community as well as the incredible staff, providers and volunteers at Frederick Health for their dedication to our original mission, as well as their dedication to our mission today — to positively impact the well-being of every individual in our community.
COVID-19 has taught us many lessons, the most important is that we’ll get through this together.
Tom Kleinhanzl is the president and CEO of Frederick Health, a regional health care system providing comprehensive health care services to the residents of Frederick County. The system includes Frederick Health Hospital, Frederick Health Medical Group, Frederick Health Employer Solutions, Frederick Health Home Care and Frederick Health Hospice. Tom also serves on the Hood College Board of Trustees and St. John’s Catholic Prep School board. For the past 16 years, Tom, and his wife Susan, have made Middletown their home, where they have chosen to raise their three children.