PAH: One Year Post COVID-19

Named a Top 100 Rural & Community Hospital
Top 100 2021

Throughout the course the past year, the health care industry has seen many changes. Covid-19 has affected the life and health of millions of people across the world. Many countries experienced health care systems overwhelmed by the influx of patients with the novel disease. With healthcare professionals fighting on the frontlines to safeguard their communities, new protocols were developed to combat this dangerous illness to stop the spread.  Just as the pandemic evolved, so to did the healthcare systems of managing the virus evolve.   When the severity of the coronavirus pandemic first became apparent, projections of how it would affect health spending varied widely; some experts expected health spending to rise and others thought it might fall.  Early on, health care utilization dropped substantially, but telemedicine use increased.  

Punxsutawney Area Hospital has experienced the same situations throughout the course of the pandemic. While many people feel the impact of loss of jobs, changes in the mode of education, the inability to live as normal- the staff at the Punxsutawney Area Hospital continue to weather the storm. For the hospital the crisis was real and every day the hospital team saw the crisis first hand.

The protocols and practices implemented during the initial phases of the pandemic have  been adapted to fit the knowledge we have about the virus and from the experiences of the past year.  Mask wearing and daily temperature checks have been  a part of the normal routine of the staff and visitors at PAH. Social distancing practices and extra cleaning efforts continue to remain in place throughout the entire facility. As Jefferson County appears to be seeing a decrease in the community transmission rate of Covid-19, the lasting effects of the virus remain. As an organization, the hospital is continuing to provide support for staff and those effected by Covid 19.  Recently the hospital’s Counseling Center has been offering Covid 19 debriefings for all interested staff members to give employees an opportunity to discuss their experiences and stress concerns caring for our Covid patients.  At these sessions, the counseling center staff have developed suggestions to reduce the risk of the work-related stress having a negative impact on their physical health as well as on their personal lives. These debriefings recognize every staff member, not just clinical, for their contributions during the pandemic. In the pandemic all 400 employees have had their work lives altered adjusted and impacted.  Hospital employees have been flexible and committed to working in a ‘new world’.

According to Diane Neville, licensed social worker, “The debriefing sessions for employees are important as they give staff members an opportunity to share their feelings in a safe environment and to realize that they are not alone.”.  Some individuals who have been running on sheer adrenaline since the onset of the pandemic a year ago and are starting to really feel the physical and emotional impact of what they have been through.   With the cases declining in the county, staff currently have more time to reflect on the impact it has had on them personally as well as on friends, family and co-workers and the losses all have endured.  
As we recall the events of the last year we would be remiss to not include the positives changes we have experienced. The community has shown an increase in awareness of personal health and the health of loved ones. The emergence of the tele-health in our community gives our residents the ability to seek medical guidance at the touch of their fingertips.  The hospital’s RAPID CARE walk in clinic has been a valuable resource for community members wanting care and testing.  

Daniel Blough, CEO stated:  “ This hospital wide commitment allowed patients to continue to receive the care they have grown to expect.  And the hospital was recognized again nationally as a  Top 100 Hospital”. Michael Topchik national leader, of the Chartis Center for Rural Health noted:   “Despite the challenges and instability, we see each day across the rural health safety net, the Top 100 program continues to illuminate strategies and innovation for delivering higher quality care and better outcomes within rural communities,” “We are delighted to be able to spotlight the efforts of these facilities through the INDEX framework.”
Over the course of the last 11 years, the INDEX has grown to become the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of rural hospital performance. Based entirely on public data and utilizing 36 independent indicators, the INDEX assesses rural hospitals across eight pillars of performance, including market share, quality, outcomes, patient perspective, cost, charge, and financial efficiency. The INDEX framework is widely used across the nation by independent rural hospitals, health systems with rural footprints and state offices of rural health, which provide access to INDEX analytics through grant-funded initiatives.

CEO  Daniel Blough continued:  “After a year of managing this pandemic, now more than ever the hospital is excited to receive these accolades as a validation of the efforts of  entire hospital family.  With the assistance of a supportive community, we have worked very hard to ensure both Covid and non-Covid patients receive excellent care.  As an organization, the Punxsutawney Area Hospital recognizes the many challenges over the last year and  celebrate the accomplishment of being named a ‘A 2021 Top 100 Rural and Community Hospital’”.