Caring for the Community
As the Pandemic Continued, So Did Our Unwavering Commitment
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued and evolved throughout 2021, it left many people in our community with a deep sense of uncertainty about the future. However, PIH Health’s commitment to health and safety never wavered.
We saw our physicians, staff, and volunteers show up, step up, and continue to deliver the top-quality care for which PIH Health is known. We saw teams adjust to capacity shortages, new treatment protocols, emergency-use medications and vaccines, supply chain delays, new state regulations, and unprecedented fear and anxiety across our community. Our teams’ diligence and dedication in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly virus demonstrated our vision: Patients First.
That commitment was evident in every doctor’s office, emergency department, urgent care center, and treatment center—spanning across PHDH, PHGSH, PHWH, and PHP. Below are numerous examples of how team members across PIH Heath worked together to deliver excellent care—at a time when our community needed it most.
Since the pandemic onset in February 2020, PIH Health has experienced four “surges” of COVID-19 patients—each of which necessitated careful planning, resource allocation, equipment and medication procurement, and application of unique protocols.
From the beginning of the pandemic to the end of our fiscal year in September 2021, PIH Health treated the following total numbers of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 across all three of our hospital locations, medical offices, and urgent care centers: 3,590 patients at PHDH, 3,369 at PHGSH, 4,845 at PHWH and 3,267 at our outpatient medical offices and urgent care centers combined.
To care for the large influx of COVID-19 patients, PIH Health devised alternate uses of space at all three hospital campuses, including the installation of tents outside the hospitals (provided by the California Air National Guard) and relocation of services and units to accommodate and safely care for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. These strategies also necessitated team nursing, staffing waivers, and new ways to process COVID-19 surge documentation.
At PHDH, COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients were placed on 4 North, 3rd Floor Medical-Telemetry and 2 North/South Telemetry. The Definitive Observation Unit (DOU) 2 East/West remained a (closed) COVID-19 unit. The ED express unit was opened to care for COVID-19 patients only, with a capacity for eight telemetry beds and four medical-surgical beds. The area where the Family Birth Center was located, was renamed 1 East/West and also became a closed COVID-19 unit, opening up 20 patient rooms, and later added an additional five beds to accommodate non-COVID-19 patient overflow.
PHGSH cared for COVID-19 patients in multiple units within the hospital. COVID-19 patients needing critical care were assigned to the 4th floor intensive care unit (ICU). At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 28 ICU beds were dedicated to COVID-19 patients, expanding to the Post Procedure Recovery Unit (PPRU) area for an additional nine ICU beds. 4 South was a dedicated COVID-19 unit for non-critical care patients for the majority of the pandemic. Every team maximized their bed capacity and converted all rooms allocated for various use back to the patient rooms, optimizing the number of patients on each nursing unit. The following areas were used to expand capacity for patient surges at PHGSH: PPRU, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) pod A and B. 6 South, a former Transitional Care Unit (TCU), was re-opened under an emergency waiver and set up as medical-surgical units. Every single unit cared for COVID-19 patients at the height of the surge. The perinatal area had designated isolation rooms for the COVID-19 pregnant patients and separate neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) rooms for the infants in isolation. PHGSH also explored options with the Army Corps to reduce the immediate COVID-19 impact on the medical campus by assessing the need to build a modular facility with supporting utilities should the need arise.
PHWH’s Critical Care unit expanded to a 24-bed closed COVID-19 unit on 2 Plaza, and opened an additional 12 beds on 3 Plaza. The Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) transitioned to an eight-bed non-COVID unit. On the 4th Floor Pavilion, 33 pediatric beds were relicensed to 33 medical surgical beds and used intermittently to accommodate unexpected surges in the adult census. With the formal relicensing of those beds to medical-surgical beds, the unit will be opened full time as renal telemetry unit once the current COVID-19 surge is over. At the peak of the pandemic, PIH Health Whittier Hospital had nine dedicated (closed) COVID-19 units. The Transitional Care Unit (TCU) expanded to Acute Rehab, where it became a COVID-19-positive unit. In addition, Hospice House closed to accept end-of-life COVID-19 patients. Following the third surge, PHWH had completed 97 transitions between opening and closing units, relocating units and expanding capacity.
As the pandemic continued to place limits on in-person interactions, our Information Solutions (IS) team built upon its strong initial foundation of technological support to further expand telemedicine, communication, remote work, and reporting capabilities.
Since the initial pandemic surge, the IS team quickly implemented technology to support telemedicine for patient portal members at My PIH Health, as well as through another video conferencing platform, Doxy.me. The team continues to support these platforms to speed the mobile patient experience, timely communication, and access to care.
Last year, the IS team provided Apple iPads to help patients in restricted units connect with loved ones at home. This year, the team deployed additional iPads and expanded their use for both caregivers and COVID-19 patients, enabling them to communicate with each other and their family members who were restricted from visiting with their loved ones.
To support PIH Health employees’ ability to work from home, the IS team expanded utilization of remote technology, allowing them to work remotely with either a health system-issued device or their own personal device.
Accurate nationwide COVID-19 reporting was another key concern this year. To support and speed reporting, our PIH Health IS team modified electronic medical record (EMR) platforms to better capture COVID-19 data for documentation and reduce the burden of order entry and documentation, allowing physicians and nurses to spend more time with patients and to reduce burnout. They also created and modified other various reporting measures to contribute to city, county, and state reporting metrics.
For PIH Health and other healthcare organizations across the country, the challenges that emerged with the COVID-19 pandemic were unlike anything the healthcare supply chain had seen.
The need to rapidly and dramatically increase supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE)—hindered by sourcing delays, especially from China and within the chaos of COVID-19—took PIH Health into uncharted waters.
However, PIH Health’s Enterprise Supply Chain team rose to the challenge. Our teams’ efforts began at the pandemic onset, by working tirelessly to procure and increase our inventories of PPE, hand sanitizers, and disinfection wipes—ultimately navigating tight allocation restrictions and price hikes to maintain ample ongoing supplies.
In 2021, our Supply Chain department continued its efforts to keep PIH Health well stocked with equipment and medication to supply all of our COVID-19 units, and to stay one step ahead of ongoing supply chain issues. To achieve this, they leveraged:
- Existing and new vendor agreements: They relied on existing vendor agreements to increase and expedite the procurement of required medical equipment. Meanwhile, they researched and established new vendor agreements to increase new lines of access.
- Local partnerships: They partnered with the City of Los Angeles’ “LoVLA” program, which purchased PPE in bulk at reasonable prices, then sold them to local hospitals at cost (no markup).
- Strategic networking opportunities: They collaborated with the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) to network with other member hospitals to share procurement leads and options.
As a result of this team’s work, the PIH Health Supply Chain continues to maintain a steady 90-day supply of PPE.
During the pandemic, PIH Health made significant investments in durable medical equipment, including 311 patient beds to accommodate our increased census, 500 additional IV pumps, 350 IV poles, 200 over-bed tables, 200 personal protective equipment (PPE) carts, and 185 additional pulse oximetry monitoring units. At PHDH and PHGSH, we purchased rapid deployment critical care monitoring systems to expand the ICU capacity at both campuses.
Our total supplies and PPE spend during the pandemic was $19.3 million—$3.3 million in capital equipment to accommodate the increases census and $16 million for supplies. Our PPE stock helped us support the surrounding community by providing needed PPE supplies to homeless shelters and skilled nursing facilities, as requested.
PIH Health’s Vaccination Efforts
Last winter, the global COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted PIH Health, with COVID-19 patient hospitalizations peaking at 552 patients on a single day, across our three hospitals. Throughout the worst weeks and months, our staff worked tirelessly to care for these patients. Today, PIH Health’s commitment continues as we work together to ensure our employees, patients, and communities are vaccinated.
December 17, 2020 was a historic day for PIH Health, as physicians and staff received the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at PHGSH. Since then, additional dispensing clinics have also been held at PHDH and PHWH. As of September 30, 2021, the vast majority of PIH Health staff across all locations were vaccinated: PHDH (95%), PHGSH (96%), PHWH (94%), and PHP (95%).
PIH Health also partnered with local school districts to vaccinate eligible teachers and students. In March 2021, PIH Health hosted its first drive-through vaccine clinic for teachers and staff in eight school districts: ABC, Bellflower, Downey, East Whittier, Little Lake Elementary, Los Nietos, Whittier City, and Whittier Union High. The clinic also administered vaccines to childcare staff at the Whittier Boys and Girls Club. Working alongside school district nurses, our PIH Health nursing staff helped to administer over 850 vaccines to faculty and staff members—ultimately contributing to the essential reopening of Los Angeles and Orange County schools. In May, the drive-through clinic welcomed students from Whittier Union High School District to receive their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine—a great start in the effort to get eligible youth vaccinated.
To date, PIH Health has administered more than 40,000 vaccine doses to our staff and surrounding communities.
A Big Thank You to Our Communities
If there’s one silver lining in another year marred by a global pandemic, it’s this: Healthcare organizations like PIH Health have demonstrated commitment and compassion for the community; and, in return, the local communities have continued to support and encourage us.
PIH Health offers our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to all of our community supporters who have given so generously in the form of hospital volunteers, donations of funds, and supplies, prayers, and letters of support.
As we continue to fight the global pandemic, we’ll do it the best way we know how—together.
Returning to Normal Operations
At the onset of the pandemic, thousands of non-emergency surgeries or procedures were canceled or postponed as we prepared our hospitals for a possible surge of patients with COVID-19. As the months of the pandemic unfolded, people not only stopped coming for routine care, many did not come for urgent or even emergency care. We have been concerned about these patients who need our care but have been hesitant to come in and are now in more critical condition than before.
Since June 2021, when the state of California lifted its stay-at-home order, our hospitals and outpatient offices have been returning to normal operations. As more people receive vaccinations and as COVID-19 cases decline, PIH Health is diligently working to help our communities make a return to health. We want our patients and their families to feel comfortable with seeking treatment when needed and resuming their routine healthcare and screenings.