On what should have been Day 2 of our session in Western Maryland, we asked a few of our members from the region to comment on how the pandemic is impacting their sector:
Barry P. Ronan '97, President, UPMC - Western Maryland, on health care:
Even though it has been over twenty years since I was a member of the LMD Class of 1997, I continue to reflect on what I gleaned from my year with Leadership Maryland. Most notable was experiencing the roles that the Greater Hagerstown Committee, the Greater Salisbury Committee and the Greater Baltimore Committee played in their respective regions. As a result, I, along with several other graduates of LMD from western Maryland, formed the Greater Cumberland Committee. TGCC has been serving Allegany and Garrett Counties in Maryland and Mineral County in West Virginia for the last twenty years. The accomplishments of TGCC throughout our region have been many and probably would not have happened without the foresight of a handful of LMD graduates.
The first wave of the COVID pandemic that began in March 2020 for the most part was manageable for my health system. The highest number of COVID-positive patients in our COVID ICU at one time was 19 with over half of them on ventilators. We continue to treat patients who are positive, but the majority are from local nursing homes. At the peak, our staff responded amazingly in the care of these patients; at no time was there any refusal to care for and treat these patients. We learned a great deal from the experience and are now much better prepared for the next wave. New opportunities grew out of the COVID experience such as greater acceptance of telemedicine, the creation of virtual everything from appointments, to waiting rooms, to staff working remotely. Much of what was created during the COVID crisis will be with us for a long time to come.
As it relates to challenges and needs for the region of western Maryland, although we are making progress, health status continues to be a challenge. UPMC Western Maryland has been focused on population health initiatives and addressing the social determinant of health for the last ten years. We are truly making a difference in the lives of so many, especially the poor and disenfranchised. In addition, we continue to deal with poverty and an increase in crime of which much is directly related to drugs. Over the last several years, the drug trade has found its way west of Baltimore. We formed a multi-disciplinary task force to deal with the opioid crisis. We have representation from the health system, health department, law enforcement, pharmacies, religious community, emergency medical services, education, corrections, courts, and social services. Everyone is very much aware of every aspect of this drug crisis and its impact on each discipline as a result of this task force. We are very fortunate to have Frostburg State University and Allegany College of Maryland in western Maryland. Health care is the region’s largest industry; both the college and university support health care through their commitment to the many allied health programs. These programs greatly benefit the hospital, the region’s clinicians as well as other providers.
Although, we have our challenges in western Maryland, I wouldn’t trade my last 30 years living and working here for anything.
Andrea E. Chapdelaine '19, President, Hood College, on higher education:
All of the institutions of higher education in this region had to cease on-campus operations in March and none of us have resumed campus operations since, although I believe most are offering a “hyflex” model in the fall, with some courses in person, others online but most in some hybrid or bimodal model, with some elements online and others in person.
We have had to revisit every facet of our operations and determine how to serve our students while mitigating the risk of spread of the virus on our campuses. These are complex and ever-changing plans that have demanded an enormous amount of time and resources.
That said, speaking for Hood, we have not seen a decrease in enrollment, as one may have predicted, although we are seeing an increased need for financial assistance as our students and their families are facing economic hardship due to the pandemic.
In terms of financial impact, we anticipate as much as a 20% loss of revenue (from auxiliary services – housing, dining, campus rentals, etc.) and additional costs of approximately $1,000 per student to prepare the campus for fall reopening. This has necessitated furloughs and reductions in salaries and benefits. As non-profits, we were excluded from most of the relief programs (e.g., PPP) so the relief for us has been negligible (less than 10% of expected losses). And of course, as one of the major employers (if not the major employer for some other Western Maryland colleges and universities) in our communities, this has a ripple effect as we have generated less consumer purchasing and income taxes.
That said, we know a college degree is one of the best ways to avoid unemployment and given the market right now, I know higher education as an industry will survive, although there will certainly be bumps along the way.
James F. "Jim" Kercheval '15, Executive Director, Greater Hagerstown Committee, Inc., on the economy and local business community:
GHC became a member of our county’s business response team instituted as part of our emergency operations plan for COVID-19. The majority of my time has shifted to a relief and recovery effort for our business community and local economy. We are actively engaged in business outreach, promotion of resources available, and advocacy with local, state, and federal officials. The rural nature of our community has shielded us from significant infection rates, and we barely have utilized our capacity for treatment.
However, the shutdowns have taken a significant toll on our local economy which has a high percentage of retail and industries dependent on tourism. We anticipate a long road to recovery and are planning for a world that will likely look very different – identifying the “sugar” needed to turn our lemons into lemonade.