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Emerging from the Pandemic and Keeping the Community Safe

As an integrated health system of hospitals and other care sites serving families in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Holy Cross Health has a more than 55-year track record of responding to the evolving needs of the diverse communities it serves.

That steadfast commitment to high-quality care for all has never quite been tested to the degree it was this year, beginning in March when the organization transformed almost overnight to care for more than 3,400 COVID-19 patients to date, and counting—all while keeping safe its colleagues, physicians and other patients needing care during the pandemic.

While Holy Cross Health took necessary steps—like partnering with state and county leaders, increasing available intensive care and medical-surgical beds, creating alternate care sites, ensuring appropriate staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE), and supporting patients and participants with new virtual appointments and classes—community members also gave a much-appreciated lift to the heroes working on the frontline.

“The community’s generosity has made a real difference in supporting life-saving care at our hospitals,  primary care practices and specialty care sites, and will continue to be critical as we move forward,” says Norvell Coots, MD, president and CEO, Holy Cross Health. “Whether you are having an elective procedure, welcoming a baby, seeking emergency or primary care, or fighting COVID-19, we are focused on you. Our care teams use the most recent medications and surgical techniques, as well as virtual tools to keep patients connected to their loved ones, all in an environment that has been updated to adhere to critical new safety standards.”

Through the spring and summer, the community rallied in a big way to support Holy Cross Health’s COVID-19 response – through financial contributions as well as donated PPE, meals and self-care items. Because Holy Cross is well-positioned for any future COVID-19 surges, the greater need for philanthropic support now involves helping community members who have been most impacted by the pandemic and investing in strategic programs, like the new outpatient cancer center. Please contact the Holy Cross Health Foundation at 301-557-GIVE (4483) to learn more about supporting these initiatives.

Heroes Among Us

For Holy Cross Health’s critical care physicians, the COVID-19 onset meant nearly double the number of seriously ill patients to care for, and often-evolving treatment protocols as knowledge of the virus grew.

“We were trained to never shy away from a challenge, says Prasad Betadpur, MD, DABSM, FCCP, Medical Director, Pulmonology and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programs. “This is by far the biggest challenge of our professional career, but together, we are moving forward and improving care for patients.”

The human side of the pandemic’s effects is ever-present in Dr. Betadpur’s work. During one of his first COVID-19 encounters, his patient understandably expressed feeling isolated and dejected. Dr. Betadpur reassured the patient that he and the team were fighting by his side, making every effort for his recovery. By spending time with the patient, making the additional protective equipment seem a bit less scary, and ensuring that the patient was regularly connecting with loved ones through new virtual systems, Dr. Betadpur was able to make a difference.

Anna Sattah, MD, another critical care physician with Holy Cross, collaborated with the critical care team daily, and even spent time on her maternity leave staying updated and sharing COVID-19 best practices. When she returned to the ICU, with a new baby at home, she brought further safe and innovative care to the bedside.

“I’ve found that team morale is an important factor in both patient and provider well-being,” says Dr. Sattah. “Everyone needs an outlet during this time, whether they’re on the frontline or not. For me, it’s been crafting hats and sharing them with my colleagues, which gives me and them a smile.”

To learn more about how Holy Cross Health is keeping patients and community members safe through protocols such as required masking and enhanced cleaning, visit HolyCrossHealth.org/safe-care.

Bringing Care Closer to Home

With everyone spending more time at home and practicing physical distancing, Holy Cross Health has created many opportunities for patients and community members to virtually connect with care, wellness programs and social services.

“We’re committed to listening to the needs of our community, partnering to support people’s well-being and making it easy,” says Dr. Coots. “That means continuing the highest level of safe hospital-based care while expanding our health services closer to home, where our community needs us.”

Many participants of Holy Cross Health’s popular chronic disease management, fitness and wellness classes have embraced these programs at home on their computer screens or smart phones.

“I’m really enjoying the virtual version of Strength Training,” says one participant. “We’re still getting the same excellent level of instruction as always. Being able to exercise in the privacy of my home is great.”  

To learn about virtual classes and events, visit HolyCrossHealth.org/classes-events.

Connecting with a trusted Holy Cross Health care provider has never been easier, thanks to virtual care. “I received the same treatment and the same attention in a virtual video visit with my doctor as when I see him in person,” says a primary care patient. “Plus, it saves time for me and I don’t have to take off from work to go to the doctor’s office.”

Rhonique Shields, MD, Holy Cross Health Network’s vice president of medical affairs and practice operations says, “COVID-19 has been a major catalyst prompting more people to turn to telehealth. That meant providing our community with new, convenient avenues for accessing health care from the comfort of home.”

To learn how to see a provider via video visit—usually within an hour—for a variety of health concerns, visit HolyCrossHealth.org/virtual-care.

Building Cancer Care for the Future

Holy Cross Health’s strong track record for cancer care within the community allows patients to receive complex, academic-level care close to home. At Holy Cross, physicians collaborate across medical, surgical and radiation specialties to build a specific treatment plan for each patient, while backing up families with nurse navigation and other support services.

“We’re expanding upon Holy Cross Health’s leadership in inpatient cancer care, to bring together outpatient services into one comprehensive cancer center,” says Kristin Feliciano, Chief Strategy Officer, Holy Cross Health. “This is a major investment to continue delivering exceptional cancer care to families in our community, easing the navigation of their difficult journey in a healing space that brings surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and support services under one roof.”

Holy Cross Health Partners welcomes two surgical specialists: thoracic surgeon Riny Karras, MD, and colorectal surgeon Matthew Skancke, MD. Dr. Karras joins Bryan Steinberg, MD, in providing expert surgical care to patients in Holy Cross’ lung cancer program, and Dr. Skancke joins Bradley Bennett, MD, and Rami Makhoul, MD, in treating patients in the colorectal cancer program.

Holy Cross is Safely Caring for Patients

It is important that you do not postpone the care that you need to get healthy and stay well. We've resumed most operations at our hospital and other care sites, including elective surgeries and procedures, while minimizing COVID-19related risks for our patients, visitors, physicians, and colleagues.

Safely Caring for Patients

It's important not to postpone the care you need to get healthy and stay well. Holy Cross Health is taking many steps to keep patients safe:

  • Screening and Testing
  • Required Masking
  • Separation of COVID-19 patients
  • Physical Distancing
  • Limited Visitors
  • Enhanced Cleaning
  • Virtual Care and Classes

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