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University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital Declares Crisis Standards of Care

Hospital hallway
Posted at 5:42 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 17:42:58-05

BEL AIR, Md. (December 28, 2021) – The substantial increase of COVID-19 positive patients over the past month at UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (UM UCMC) in Bel Air has forced the hospital to declare Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) protocols as part of its pandemic plan. Effective today, the UM Harford Memorial Hospital (UM HMH) in Havre de Grace will adopt CSC as well.

“We have been monitoring both of our hospitals very carefully. CSC is a critical response when the demand for healthcare exceeds the ability for the hospital to provide it. These standards provide a framework allowing healthcare professionals flexibility to care for patients with the highest need,” said Fermin Barrueto, MD, MBA, UM UCH Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer. “The standards are based on best practices and guided by ethical principles.”

Lyle Sheldon, President and CEO, UM Upper Chesapeake Health, said, “We must continue to support our teams and recognize the significant burden they have carried for almost two years. Today, UM Harford Memorial Hospital (UM HMH) has declared CSC because of the similar impacts to operations.”

COVID-19 positive patients continue to increase at both hospitals, in the emergency rooms and on inpatient units. Though UM UCMC was the first in the State of Maryland to declare CSC, UM HMH is now the third University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) hospital to declare CSC, along with UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

UMMS partnered with Johns Hopkins Medicine to establish an approach for how their hospitals move to CSC, in line with recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Moving forward, these criteria – which have been presented to the State -- will be used to determine how any of our hospitals activate CSC. UMMS and Hopkins have also worked together to consider all of the regulatory implications of such a move.

Taking this action will enable the hospital to care for the increasing number of patients in the most safe and effective way during this crisis. CSC is not a separate triage plan, but is an extension of the hospital’s surge-capacity plan. Both UM UCMC and UM HMH are moving from conventional, customary services in delivery of healthcare to contingency care, where the care provided is functionally equivalent to routine care, but resources like staff, medications and equipment may be used differently. Engaging family members in expectations and options of care is critical in CSC.

David Marcozzi, MD, UMMS COVID-19 Incident Commander and Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said, “This declaration is needed for the UM HMH as we continue to navigate this crisis and optimize care delivery for the significant number of patients seeking healthcare. All UMMS hospitals are maximizing their surge plans and are reducing surgical volumes by at least 20 percent, as directed by Governor Hogan.”

Enacting CSC protocols also allows the hospital to manage expectations within our community about the reality of what our hospital is currently experiencing, how that may impact their care and what measures individuals can take to reduce the burden on our hospitals.

“It’s important our community understands the reality of what our hospitals are currently experiencing, how that may impact their care, and—most importantly—what steps they can take to help reduce additional burden on our hospitals,” said Marcy Austin, Interim Health Officer at Harford County Health Department. “Vaccination, including a booster for those who are eligible, masking, hand washing, and testing are all simple steps everyone can employ now that can have a profound impact on the trajectory of COVID-19 in the weeks and months to come.”