Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Celebrating Gilchrist

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the ground-breaking ceremony that will be the future home of our Gilchrist Baltimore Inpatient Hospice facility at Stadium Place. The current site on Eutaw Street – the former Joseph Richey House – has provided end-of-life care for city residents for more than 30 years. The new center will continue to be the only residential hospice center in Baltimore and will house the only pediatric inpatient hospice unit in the state. The addition of Gilchrist’s inpatient hospice center at Stadium Place will create a full continuum of care for elders. To find out more, please visit here

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and I’d like to recognize the excellent staff and volunteers at Gilchrist, who are devoted to ensuring a respectful end-of-life journey. Our team has done so much over the years to serve elders through medical consultations, palliative care, in-home primary care, end-of-life care, and bereavement services.  

Our community is so fortunate to be served by Gilchrist. In this time of Thanksgiving, I want to express my deepest gratitude to Cathy Hamel, President of Gilchrist and Vice President of Continuing Care at GBMC HealthCare, and Dr. Tony Riley, Chief Medical Officer of Gilchrist, and their entire team for their devotion to their patients and families.  

Thank You!!

Over the last several months, there has been an outpouring of support for healthcare workers at GBMC, in our state, and across the nation. Many members of our community have shared encouraging messages for our nurses, doctors, and other members of our workforce on social media and in other ways. I’m very appreciative of the community’s efforts to encourage our team.

Recently, I received handmade posters from two young members of our community. What great work and how nice it is that these young individuals took the time to find a way to brighten our clinicians’ days during this coronavirus pandemic. I am truly humbled by their kindness and their artistic abilities. 

There is a belief that extraordinary times bring out extraordinary people. As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, I have been amazed with the outpouring of acts of kindness from the community to our people. I want to thank these young artists and everyone who has honored us.   

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to my GBMC colleagues and their families! 

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all that we have. I want to thank you all for your expertise, hard work, and compassion that helps us move closer to our vision of being a community-based health system where every patient, every time, is treated the way we would treat our own loved ones.  

I also want to extend a special “Thank You” to all who will be working tomorrow, or who are working during the extended holiday weekend to care for our patients and support their loved ones.

P.S. What are you thankful for during this time? I’d love to hear about it – please leave me a comment!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

We did it!

I received a phone call recently from the United States of America Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, informing me that the GBMC HealthCare System has achieved the Malcolm Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence! We could not share this information with you until today because we had to wait until the Secretary sent out his public news release.

All I can say is “wow.” I am so happy and grateful to all my GBMC brothers and sisters for your hard work, your wonderful expertise, your embrace of our vision, and your willingness to design systems to help us get there. 

Our Board of Directors, led by our Chair, Mr. Fred Hudson, is so proud of all of you and they are also grateful for your efforts. They know that this award is a testament to your commitment to serve every patient the way you want your own loved ones served. Fred and the Board also realize how challenging this has been during the pandemic, which makes achieving the award even more remarkable!

I need to thank all of you, but there are a few people that deserve to be called out. Keith Poisson, our now retired Chief Operating Officer, did a marvelous job as the “Chief Implementer.” Carolyn Candiello, our Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety, and Lisa Groff Reuschling, DNP, RN, our Clinical Director of Women and Children’s Services, did a masterful job of writing the application and guiding us through all phases of its review. The Quality Department all worked overtime during the site visit. So many people stepped up to the plate when it was critical to do so, but sadly I cannot highlight all of them in this blog. 

We are just the third organization in our State to achieve the award and the first in healthcare! (The other two Maryland all-time winners were Montgomery County Schools and Howard Community College.) 

Since 1987, the Baldrige Award has been the highest recognition for performance excellence in the nation. It is the nation’s only presidential award for performance excellence, recognizing U.S. organizations and businesses that have shown an “unceasing drive for innovative solutions to complex challenges, visionary leadership and operational excellence.”

Words cannot express the pride that I feel for this organization and for our physicians, nurses, other clinicians, support staff, and volunteers who contribute every day to our serving the community with health, healing, and hope, and in educating the next generation of clinicians. You have now received the highest recognition in the country for your efforts. Thank you! 

We will continue to use the Baldrige criteria to help us move faster towards our vision, but let us savor the moment. 

It’s no fun when the computers go down
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Harold Tucker, informing me that our computer systems were down. My first thought was the worst-case scenario – that we were under a cyberattack. I knew that the U.S. was on heightened alert for such attacks. 

Out of an abundance of caution regarding system reliability and integrity, GBMC’s leadership took measures to protect essential systems and data by proactively taking systems off-line. Happily, our findings discovered no evidence of malicious behavior, but our team had to go to downtime procedures to care for patients. Returning to the paper world is very difficult, and much of our standard work had to be changed on the fly. Approximately 9 hours after our systems were taken down, we started to restore them, and by mid-afternoon we were back to standard operations. We now believe that last week’s event was due to a computer storage issue and we have already added more storage. We will continue our forensic examination to assure that we reduce the probability of this happening again. 

I am so grateful to everyone for their work to get through the downtime. Let me thank our physicians, nurses, and other clinicians, who did not let the computer failure negatively affect patient care. 

I also want to thank Dave Hynson, GBMC’s Chief Information Officer, and his team for always working hard to educate us about the threat of attacks on our computer systems and for continually working to minimize the harm from a potential attack. Let me thank our ITS team for their rapid response to the problem and for the many hours they worked through last weekend to get things running again and assuring they had made the correct diagnosis. We are better off because of their on-going efforts. 

Finally, let me ask all of you to not let down your guard! Cyberthreats continue, and we must always be ready. Thank you.

Friday, November 13, 2020

GBMC Has Always Been a Great Place to Have a Baby

It is clear that the pandemic has had a negative effect on the utilization of many healthcare services. GBMC was formed through the merger of The Hospital for The Women of Maryland of Baltimore City and the Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Charity Hospital, so it’s not a surprise that GBMC has always had a very strong Obstetrics service. On average, we deliver more than 4,000 babies per year! We are now almost 9 months into the pandemic and our Maternity service is booming. 

One of the major reasons we continue to have mothers delivering at our medical center is because of our dedicated team of expert nurses, physicians, and advanced practitioners who are committed to providing safe and effective care to every patient who walks through our doors. Our staff, under the leadership of Dr. Victor Khouzami, GBMC’s Chairman of Obstetrics, and Lisa Groff Reuschling, DNP, RN, GBMC Director of Women and Children’s Service, are experts who work tirelessly to treat every patient as if she were their own loved one. 

I am so grateful to our nurses, physicians, advanced practitioners, and technicians for everything that they are doing to serve women, their babies, and their family members.

Help Is Just a Phone Call Away
The COVID-19 pandemic has put added stress on frontline healthcare workers who were already feeling the pressure of the ageing population and the opioid epidemic, among other stressors. A recent United Nations report said that frontline healthcare workers and first responders have been exposed to significantly increased stressors and emphasized that the mental health of healthcare workers is a critical factor in sustaining COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery.

At GBMC, we are fortunate to have the CARES program, which is a peer support service for any staff member who needs “psychological first aid” or experiences a particularly stressful work event. The CARES team services are free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The CARES team is here to help: 

Increase awareness of the second victim problem

Equip staff with healthy coping strategies to promote well-being 

Reassure and guide staff to continue thriving in their roles

Identify other support services

I am grateful to have this important program in our hospital. We realize how critically important it is to have a mechanism in place to support our staff. Help is only a call away. To utilize the peer support services of the CARES team, call 443-849-CARE (2273). 

Radiologic Technology Week & Forensic Nurses Week
This week is “National Radiologic Technology Week” and “Forensic Nurses Week.” I would like to thank all our registered technologists (RTs) and our forensic nurses for their very important roles in serving our patients.

Please join me in saluting our RTs and forensic nurses for their commitment to quality, patient-centered care, for their hard work, and for their valuable role in helping us achieve our vision.

Celebrating Nurse Practitioner Week
November 12-18 marks National Nurse Practitioner Week. Please join me in celebrating GBMC’s outstanding Nurse Practitioners (NPs). Across our nation, there are more than 200,000 NPs who provide care to millions of Americans. We have excellent NPs working in our hospital, in our physician practices, and at Gilchrist. They help us move closer to our vision of a patient-centered system of care every day. 

Thank You to our Veterans!
On Wednesday, we commemorated Veterans Day and took the time to remember the millions of American military veterans who have served to protect us. I know that I speak for all of us at GBMC HealthCare in offering our sincere gratitude for the personal sacrifices, past and present, of all of our service men and women.

Friday, November 6, 2020

‘Tis the Season

Last week, a joint Federal taskforce, led by the FBI, notified healthcare systems and hospitals across our nation about an imminent cybersecurity threat that has already resulted in attacks on more than two dozen hospitals. Those attacked have suffered the loss of IT systems and are running on paper documentation, causing major patient safety concerns. The criminals make ransom requests in the millions of dollars. 

These attacks are taking advantage of healthcare’s focus on the pandemic and individuals’ focus on the election. Unlike other attacks, this group is specifically targeting U.S. based healthcare with the intent to disrupt. Those leading the attack are from a Russian speaking foreign group. U.S. intelligence has intercepted communications that indicate more hospitals are being targeted this week.  

Our cybersecurity team, led by David Hynson, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, quickly and proactively implemented safeguards to help protect the systems that we rely on to deliver care.  

However, we know that the weak link in our defenses is us! Everyone must be vigilant and have a questioning attitude. Be especially careful when you receive an email from an unknown sender or if it contains an unfamiliar email address or subject matter. Here are some key safety behaviors:

--Do NOT click on or copy links in an email, instead type the site url into a new browser window.
--Do NOT open or download email attachments, instead utilize the phishing button in Outlook, or you can call the sender directly to verify that they sent the attachment and/or call the IT Service Desk (ext. 3725).
--Conduct personal business on personal devices (i.e. online shopping, personal emails, etc.).
--Know your area’s downtime procedures. Towards this end, we will begin doing downtime drills on weekdays.  

If you need assistance, our IT Service Desk is available 24/7 to support you. For more IT resources and information on safeguards that are currently in place during this threat period, please visit the main page of the Infoweb (What’s New section). 

Remember, if something does not look right, please contact our IT department. Thank you for your help and for doing your part to keep our systems safe!

National Medical Staff Services Professionals Awareness Week
This week is National Medical Staff Services Awareness Week, and I would like to recognize the important role that our medical services professionals play in our healthcare system. They work behind the scenes to ensure our providers are properly credentialed, licensed, and trained in their respective specialties. Often called the “gatekeepers of patient safety,” medical staff professionals are critical to our system’s high safety and quality standards. Please join me in thanking them this week. 

I want to congratulate our Chairman of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Robert K. Brookland, and his department for being awarded a three-year re-accreditation in radiation oncology as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology (ACR). Re-accreditation is given to health facilities that meet specific ACR-developed practice guidelines and technical standards, following a stringent peer-review evaluation by board-certified radiation oncologists and medical physicists who are experts in the field. This designation is an honor and reflects GBMC’s ongoing commitment to excellence in cancer care.

GBMC Health Partners at Padonia Update
Since its official opening approximately three weeks ago, our GBMC Health Partners practice at Padonia, has been growing rapidly. This early success could not have been possible without the hard work of many, including Senior Ambulatory Practice Manager, Ericka Easley. Ericka has done an excellent job in leading the team, along with Sarah Whiteford, MD, and making sure that each patient receives the care that we would want for our loved ones. Thank you, Ericka!

Our Democracy is Strong
The United States of America was built on the principle of majority rule. It is very exciting to see so many people exercising their right to vote. We have the right to debate who are the best candidates to lead our government, but once the results are in, the citizens have spoken and we all must accept the results. I ask all my GBMC colleagues to work to bring people together to strengthen our democracy and improve our nation, no matter the results of the election. Thank you.