A lot can happen in a year and, indeed, it has. It was about one year ago that the first several COVID-19 positive patients were reported in the United States. Few could have imagined the life-changing pandemic that was at our doorstep. The concepts of social distancing and wearing face coverings seemed foreign. Washing hands was often an afterthought. Now, we are managing the greatest healthcare crisis of our lifetimes.
But the people of Gettysburg have a long history of coming together in times of need. For WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, that history spans all the way to its founding a century ago which in many ways was in direct response to the Spanish flu pandemic.
With this pandemic, WellSpan has stood up to the challenge. Our response has been strengthened by a system approach that supports all our hospitals. As a health system with the backing of eight hospitals and over 200 care locations across six counties, we routinely share supplies. During surges in the pandemic that brought us close to capacity, we were even able to navigate those difficult days by redeploying staff where they were needed most.
We have leaned into the many virtual care options put in place prior to COVID-19 and expanded them systemwide. We are accelerating our vision to reimagine healthcare by offering innovative access to care when and where our patients need it with offerings like WellSpan Online Urgent Care, WellSpan Online Primary Care and so much more. And while we are far from done with this pandemic, our excitement at WellSpan is building because of the hope that the vaccine can bring to our community.
Our care teams have been incredibly resilient over the past 12 months, experiencing just about every emotion in the book. They have forged ahead through some of the darkest days. They have held the hands of countless patients taking their last breath. They have adapted to routines of cumbersome and often uncomfortable personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
And yet, there have been many moments of hope – like when care teams rally around their patients to encourage and cheer them on the road to recovery. Or, when they rally around fellow team members struggling on the most difficult days, knowing it may be them that needs that support tomorrow. And, now, they are rallying around the hope offered by the COVID-19 vaccine.
As the vaccine rollout expands, we are encouraged by the prospects of more and more in our community gaining access to this beacon of hope. WellSpan stands ready, as a trusted partner in our communities, to help with that distribution as vaccine doses become more widely available.
We want to do everything we can to remove any potential barriers from those eligible to get the vaccine. That is why we have opened online vaccine appointment scheduling on the MyWellSpan web portal. Anyone can sign up for a MyWellSpan account; you do not need to be a current patient. Once an individual receives their first dose the system automatically populates the ability to schedule a second dose in the appropriate timeframes. We encourage those eligible for a vaccine to schedule an appointment. And, for those interested in receiving the vaccine but not yet eligible, we encourage them to register for a MyWellSpan account now to make the appointment scheduling process easier when their time comes.
Outside of the pandemic, our hospital has made incredible strides toward providing the highest quality of care to our patients. WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital earned an impressive A Grade in safety from Leapfrog, an independent national watchdog organization. We also achieved the Keystone 10 designation, an effort aimed at improving the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding for all Pennsylvania infants, mothers and families. And I have been excited to take the reins from my colleague Jane Hyde in leading our wonderful hospital. My transition has been made successful by all of the team members that make WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital what it is! They are the true healthcare heroes of our area and this pandemic.
We know there are so many thirsting for a return to some sense of normalcy, and we believe the vaccine is the first step in that process. We thank our community for all the support it has given us through this long year, lifting up our team members and the work they are doing. We look forward to commemorating the hospital’s first 100 years of serving the community throughout the year. We will pay tribute to the many remarkable physicians, nurses, support staff and volunteers who have helped establish the hospital as a place of hope and healing for all who come to us for care.
In the meantime, while we continue our efforts on the frontlines, please know that our healthcare heroes have hopes for a brighter tomorrow and for a brighter year ahead, and we hope that you do, too.
Michael Cogliano, Sr. is vice president of WellSpan Health and president of WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital.