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UToledo Reviewing Proposals Following RFP Deadline

The University of Toledo is reviewing responses to the public request for proposal process (RFP) for a potential transaction for University of Toledo Medical Center.

As was shared publicly during the April UToledo Board of Trustees meeting, the University is moving forward with examining all options for the hospital, and a necessary part of the process is an RFP seeking proposals for a potential acquisition, lease, management agreement or other transaction of the hospital. The RFP was issued April 16 and closed 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 10.

The University is undertaking this process to be responsive to the community’s concerns about access to healthcare and our economic realities.

As planned, an update on the RFP process and the state of the hospital’s current financial challenges will be provided during the next regular meeting of the UToledo Board of Trustees scheduled for Monday, June 22.

UToledo Experts Share What You Need to Know About COVID-19 as States Reopen

As governments begin easing restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, public health and infectious disease experts from The University of Toledo are offering insight into what you need to know about the novel coronavirus, how to protect yourself, and how to protect others.

The virus is still here. We have to act accordingly.

Fink

While the number of newly confirmed cases in many states — including Ohio and Michigan — appears to have peaked, the virus hasn’t gone away or become less dangerous.

“We all yearn for the way life was in the pre-pandemic days, and we are going to get there, but this is going to be the situation for a while,” said Dr. Brian Fink, an epidemiologist and professor of public health. “We have to respect that and continue taking the same precautions.”

Though it’s tempting to see businesses reopening and leisure activities resuming and think the threat of the virus is behind us, Fink said the reality is the novel coronavirus is still spreading across the United States.

Take steps to protect your own health and the health of others.

“People do still need to be careful,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, an associate professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “One of the worst things that people could do at this point is go out and resume their normal behavior. We would certainly have a resurgence.”

Diligent handwashing, avoiding touching your nose and mouth, staying home if you’re sick, and social distancing should all continue, UToledo experts said. Individuals who are older or high-risk because of underlying health conditions should be more careful.

Fink said there are simple things you can do. For example, when shopping, avoid picking up an item and then putting it back, and keep your distance from other shoppers. It’s also important, he said, to make decisions based not only on your own risk, but the risk of those around you.

“It’s difficult. We all want to see our friends and family,” he said. “We just have to be patient. If we’re patient and we follow the guidelines as best as possible, we’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later, even though that’s going to take time,” Fink said.

Wearing a cloth face covering does make a difference. Wear one if you’re around others.

Hanrahan

The shifting guidance from public health officials on mask usage has caused confusion and pushback, but Hanrahan encourages people to wear a simple mask or cloth face covering when around other people.

“Two things are happening. The person wearing the mask is reducing the amount of stuff they’re putting in the environment, and they’re also reducing the amount they breath in,” she said. “It’s not going to prevent everything, but there is some protection.”

Hanrahan said face coverings, combined with continued social distancing and new measures being implemented by businesses, such as clear barriers at cash registers and limits on the number of people allowed in one place at one time, will reduce the overall risk.

Fink said its important people recognize things such as mask recommendations or requirements are being done for the benefit of everyone, not to target specific individuals.

“I always tell my students there are going to be people in the population who aren’t going to be happy. We’re seeing that,” Fink said. “But we’re putting these guidelines in place for the health and well-being of everyone.”

Individuals with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable, but no one is immune to the illness.

As physicians and researchers learn more about COVID-19, there are also some troubling discoveries. Along with older Americans and those who have diabetes, compromised immune systems and chronic lung diseases, Hanrahan said doctors are finding people with morbid obesity and high blood pressure are at high risk of complications.

“Hypertension alone would not necessarily be thought of as a potential problem with a viral infection, but it actually is,” she said. “For people who have those conditions or other underlying medical conditions, they really need to think about whether it makes sense for them to go to the grocery store or be around a lot of other people.”

Additionally, there are an increasing number of reports of children developing a severe inflammatory response linked to COVID-19, even when they weren’t previously sick.

“COVID-19 is not just affecting people who are at high risk for complications,” Hanrahan said.

Scientists and physicians have learned a lot about the virus, but we’re still a long way from having routine treatments or a vaccine.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was completely unknown before it began spreading among people early this year. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of research both in how the virus spreads and potential ways to treat or prevent it.

“We have learned a lot about this virus,” Hanrahan said. “Most of the spread really is by droplets, typically within a few feet of the person. The social isolation part, keeping six feet of distance, that does actually make a difference.”

Doctors also have a better idea how to manage the virus, and hundreds of drugs are being examined to potentially fight COVID-19 and its effects. Some, including the antiviral drug remdesivir, are showing promising early results. Progress also is being made in vaccine development.

However, while there is reason for hope, Hanrahan said it will take time to get any of these therapeutics in the quantities needed. Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, anticipates making a million courses of that drug globally by December.

“That’s not going to be enough to treat people if we get a really huge outbreak. This is unfortunately going to be with us for a while,” Hanrahan said. “That’s why it’s important everyone continue to treat this pandemic seriously.”

UTMC to Resume Outpatient Procedures, Seeing Non-Emergent Patients

The University of Toledo Medical Center is preparing to resume elective outpatient surgeries that were temporarily halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restart is being done in accordance with guidelines from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health, which include strict adherence to infection control practices, a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment, and conversations with patients about their relative risk of contracting COVID-19.

Aligned with the state’s Responsible RestartOhio guidance, UTMC’s first procedures are planned to take place Friday, May 1.

Patients in need of a surgical procedure will be required to complete a questionnaire and be tested for COVID-19 prior to surgery. The number of employees in the operating room will be limited to include only those who are absolutely necessary, and they all will wear extra personal protective equipment.

Prioritization will be given to patients who have the most urgent medical needs. While classified as elective, these medically necessary procedures cover a wide range of cases, many of which have significant implications for quality of life. They do not, however, require an overnight stay.

UTMC announced March 15 it was canceling elective procedures, two days before the Ohio Department of Health ordered all hospitals in the state to pause the procedures in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment.

The hospital also will soon begin phasing in more face-to-face visits with healthcare providers. Beginning Monday, May 4, some UTMC clinics will reopen to patients who require chronic disease management or select preventative services.

To further protect patients and employees, UTMC will enforce social distancing in all waiting rooms and clinics, screen for fever at entrances, provide additional cleaning of common and clinical areas, ensure patients and providers are wearing appropriate protective equipment, and stagger scheduling to reduce contact between patients.

UTMC continues to enforce visitor restrictions. The only exceptions are for end-of-life visits, minors, or individuals who need assistance with daily tasks.

UToledo Medical Student Organizes Effort to Gather Supplies for Local Hospitals

Gabrielle Hymel grew up watching her father, an emergency medicine physician, report to work never quite knowing what each day might bring.

But never had he, nor the thousands of other frontline healthcare workers in America, dealt with anything like the global coronavirus pandemic. As personal protective equipment has been in short supply across the country, a high percentage of those afflicted with COVID-19 have been healthcare workers.

Hymel

“He is in that age group where there are higher rates for severe complications if you get exposed,” said Hymel, a first-year medical student at The University of Toledo. “For a week or two, I was just very anxious watching coronavirus spread throughout the United States. I knew it was a matter of when, not if, this would come to our area, and I was just kind of wallowing in this anxiety.”

When a high school teacher of hers reached out to ask how they might go about donating gloves and hand sanitizer, a realization hit Hymel — she could do something to help.

“We need gloves, surgical masks, surgical gowns, isolation gowns, N95 masks, sanitizing equipment,” Hymel said. “A lot of people who have done painting work, do-it-yourself construction work, art with resin or spray paint, will buy N95s and forget about them. It’s just sitting in their garage, their basement. Let’s look.”

What started as a group chat with fellow medical students has grown into something much larger. Hymel quickly looped in with a group called Masks For Docs, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting personal protective equipment in the hands of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals working with COVID-19 patients.

Hymel started a local chapter of Masks For Docs and began contacting tattoo parlors, schools, construction companies and other organizations that might have stock of personal protective equipment. The local chapter also is reaching out via social media to solicit donations from the community and has worked with UToledo academic labs to facilitate donations.

As of April 1, the group had collected a range of equipment and supplies, including 107 face shields, 165 surgical gowns, 85 boxes of gloves, hundreds of surgical masks, and a large supply of cleaning and disinfecting products.

The group also has been in touch with individuals who have experience in supply chain management and direct access to factories making personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators.

Hymel’s group has distributed material to a number of area hospitals, including The University of Toledo Medical Center.

“The willingness of our community to come and help has been very heartwarming,” Hymel said. “Every mask counts, every glove counts. These are people’s lives. These people have families. The more we can help them, the bigger the impact is.”

The northwest Ohio chapter of Masks For Docs can be reached via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Individuals can also email masks4docsnwo@gmail.com or call 567.218.3944.

Donate to Assist UTMC Caregivers

Brave and selfless healthcare workers report to work every day to help those in need. Their sacrifices have never been more important than during this pandemic.

“Healthcare providers treating patients with COVID-19 are juggling the new normal, which includes finding daycare and elder care, as well as homeschooling children,” Dr. Sharon L. Gaber, president of The University of Toledo, said. “We are working to show support for our everyday heroes at The University of Toledo Medical Center.”

A campaign for the Bryan Family UTMC Emergency Assistance Fund has launched.

UToledo benefactor David Bryan is broadening the scope of the fund established by his father, Ashel G. Bryan, former chair of the Medical College of Ohio Board of Trustees and well-known businessman and philanthropist, so more UTMC personnel can receive assistance during this unprecedented time.

“We are expanding the fund to help not only nurses, but also medical technicians, therapists, nurse aides and janitorial staff members who clean and sanitize rooms daily,” Bryan said. “This fund needs to grow to meet the tremendous sacrifices these individuals make every day.”

As of April 14, $2,180 has been raised; the goal is to have 50 donors contribute to this campaign.

“I’m humbled by the outreach of members of our community who want to assist our caregivers, employees and all our team members who are working on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Michael Ellis, UTMC chief medical officer. “Thank you for your support and compassion. Together we will get through this.”

Make a donation and learn more about the drive on the Bryan Family UTMC Emergency Assistance Fund campaign website.

“Gifts will provide critical financial support to UTMC healthcare employees who are supporting us during this difficult time,” Bryan said. “This fund will be used for an employee assistance program that will provide grants to help with unexpected expenses associated with the COVID-19 environment.”

UTMC employees can complete the application to apply for the grant.

Applications will be reviewed by a committee, which will decide how to distribute the funds.

“It’s our time to help our dedicated team of UTMC caregivers and employees who make sacrifices every day to care for our community members,” Bryan said.

For more information, contact Jennifer Schaefer, senior director of development in The University of Toledo Foundation, at jennifer.giesige2@utoledo.edu.

University of Toledo Announces Next Steps for UTMC

Recommendations include short-term stabilization efforts and steps toward a long-term solution

Citing ongoing fiscal challenges, exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic, The University of Toledo will seek requests for proposals for a potential acquisition, lease, management agreement or other transaction of its community hospital.

“We are undertaking this process to be responsive to the community’s concerns about access to healthcare and the University’s economic realities. We remain challenged as a small, independent hospital,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We hope that a solution emerges that addresses both of these concerns.”

In moving forward with examining all options for the hospital, University officials announced a planned public request for proposal (RFP) process during Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting. The RFP to seek possible partnerships or sale of the University of Toledo Medical Center hospital (UTMC) is being finalized and is expected to be posted this week, with qualifying criteria needed to participate in the process. University officials have been keeping the Governor’s office informed, most recently communicating to the Chancellor of Higher Education, Randy Gardner, who the Governor designated as the University’s contact for this issue. An update on the RFP process is expected at the Board’s next regular meeting scheduled for June 22.

The University’s decision to move forward with an RFP process followed a financial update presented by Rick Swaine, UTMC’s current CFO and incoming CEO, who noted the hospital continues to struggle financially with the losses at the close of February at nearly $14.8 million. Preliminary implications of the COVID-19 response, including the state’s order to suspend all elective procedures, has substantially increased the financial strain on UTMC.

The RFP process also follows short-term stabilization efforts. On March 9, 2020, the Board of Trustees amended UTMC’s medical bylaws by removing the faculty-appointment restriction for practicing physicians. This has resulted in 12 additional community physicians applying for practicing rights at UTMC.

UTMC leadership also continues to work on a number of cost reduction strategies, including reviewing and reassessing all contracts and adjusting staff levels to align with the current needs during this pandemic response.

“We have committed to being as transparent as possible as we work through the RFP process and the cost reduction strategies,” UToledo Board of Trustees Chair Mary Ellen Pisanelli said. “As stewards of the University and the state, we must consider all options.”

The University previously shared at the February Board of Trustees meeting that UTMC’s losses for fiscal year 2018 totaled $3.5 million and grew to $7 million in fiscal year 2019.

UToledo Faculty Sending Personal Protective Equipment From Laboratories to UTMC

Faculty across The University of Toledo are emptying their research and academic laboratories of personal protective equipment to send to healthcare workers at The University of Toledo Medical Center on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry transferred 95,000 nitrile gloves, as well as a large quantity of chemicals — alcohol and bleach — used as disinfectants from its stockroom, which is an important University resource for research and teaching.

William Ridener collects donations

William Ridener, a UToledo delivery worker, collects donations from academic and research labs to provide personal protective equipment to healthcare workers at UTMC.

“With the suspension of in-person teaching and the slowing of on-campus research projects for the near future, it was an easy decision to make these critical items available for the efforts of the healthcare professionals at UTMC during this crisis,” Dr. Jon Kirchhoff, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, said. “We are grateful for their efforts and pleased to contribute to their safety.”

Physicists at the UToledo Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization are planning to donate their cache of supplies, which include 200 blue fabric coveralls, 200 Tyvek coveralls and 5,000 pairs of nitrile gloves.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring that our valiant healthcare providers have all of the personal protective equipment that we can possibly provide,” Dr. Michael Heben, UToledo professor of physics and McMaster endowed chair, said.

Faculty in the College of Engineering continue to gather their donation, which so far includes chemicals, such as bleach and ethanol, as well as lab sanitizer, 80 face shields, 55 safety glasses, 6,400 non-sterile gloves, 10 goggles and 18 lab coats.

“The community response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming, and we are grateful for all the offerings of the critical supplies to protect our front-line staff and patients,” said Monecca Smith, chief nursing officer at UTMC.

Examples of personal protective equipment and supplies in need for healthcare workers at UTMC include N95 masks, powered air-purifying respirator equipment/hoods, face shields, face masks, gowns, Tyvek suits, gloves, goggles, cleaning wipes/disinfectant and thermometers.

Donated supplies must be in their original, unopened packaging.

UTMC is accepting homemade masks in case they’re needed; however, healthcare workers won’t use them unless all traditional personal protective equipment is used and there are no alternatives.

Individuals interested in making donations to UTMC should follow these procedures:

Large deliveries (one pallet or more): Deliver to UTMC, 3000 Arlington Ave., Toledo, OH 43614, at the receiving dock entrance. Receiving hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 419.383.5060 when you arrive from the dock phone.

Small deliveries: Deliver to UTMC main entrance (off Arlington Avenue), 3000 Arlington Ave., Toledo, OH, 43614. Drop off with valet services with Jennifer Pastorek, senior director of supply chain management, as the recipient.

Pick up: If you do not have the ability to deliver the items, call 419.383.6893 or email jennifer.pastorek@utoledo.edu to make arrangements for a pick up.

• Please include a list of items and your contact information with your donation.

Early Interest in COVID-19 Testing Helped UTMC Launch Lab Services

As the world watched a novel coronavirus begin to spread beyond central China, a team of molecular experts at The University of Toledo Medical Center were already weighing how they might be able to test for the dangerous new disease here in northwest Ohio.

Just a handful of cases had been confirmed in the United States at that time, and testing was barely off the ground in the country. Only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was providing laboratory services.

Working in the lab are, back row from left, Heather Byrd, Nicole Ortiz and Heather Kvale, and front row from left, Michelle Lewandowski, Holly Mohon and Shauna Rasor.

Even so, Dr. Ji-Youn Yeo, a UTMC molecular specialist who earned her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from UToledo, was eager to put a plan together.

Her early push paved the way for UTMC’s pathology laboratory to become the first location in northwest Ohio capable of testing samples for COVID-19.

“Dr. Yeo said, ‘I want to do this,’ and put it in motion. When she came to us, it was really early, but we knew we could do it,” said Cynthia O’Connell, the lab’s administrative director.

A few weeks later on March 18 when Abbott Molecular received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a new test using one of its molecular instruments, UTMC jumped at the opportunity.

By March 23, UTMC’s lab was up and running. The lab has the ability to test up to 180 samples per day and return results in less than 48 hours.

“We had the right equipment here, and we had folks who had the knowledge,” O’Connell said, noting that a number of individuals inside the lab, elsewhere in the hospital, and in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences deserved credit for the project coming together in such a short amount of time.

Microbiology supervisor Heather Byrd worked to source the difficult-to-find swabs necessary for doing the testing. Molecular specialist Heather Kvale and microbiologist Nicole Ortiz worked to get confirmed positive and negative samples from Columbus and Detroit to validate the UTMC test.

There also was help from Dr. Travis Taylor, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, who created the viral transport media needed to keep testing swabs safe until they’re examined in the lab — another material in very short supply across the country.

One of the biggest contributions to the speed with which UTMC was able to start testing came from Yeo, who also worked as a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Bina Joe, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. Yeo still regularly collaborates to research in the Joe lab focusing on microbiome sequencing.

On the COVID-19 project, Yeo modified the test to make it safely work at UTMC and then ensured the accuracy following those modifications.

“Dr. Yeo made validation of this testing seemingly effortless, minimizing the number of runs it took to bring this online and saving days’ worth of testing. Her organization helped us go live as fast as possible,” Kvale said.

For O’Connell, the biggest payoff is seeing how UTMC is able to help the region.

“It’s wonderful to be able to do something for the community. We’ve had so many other hospitals say thank you. Many times, they were waiting seven or eight days to get results back. We can provide results in less than 48 hours,” O’Connell said. “It’s nice to be able to help.”

Family Nurse Practitioner Students Holding Virtual Book Drive

Everyone remembers that cherished childhood book.

“My favorite was ‘Go, Dog. Go!’ by P.D. Eastman,” said Cassi Laberdee, a student in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program. “Reading and being read to beginning at a young age can shape children in such a positive way; it can pave the way for a knowledge-filled life. And this allows parents and children another way to bond and grow their relationships.”

Jessica Asher, a student in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program, read “Bedtime Bear” to her 3-month-old twins, Jasey, left, and Jozey.

“I loved Dr. Seuss’ ABC book when I was a kid. It helped me to learn my alphabet in a fun way growing up. I always loved learning and reading,” said Stephanie Zecman, who also is in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program.

Laberdee and Zecman are teaming up with a couple peers to hold the family nurse practitioner students’ spring project — a virtual book drive that runs through Monday, April 20.

The drive is being conducted through Books By the Bushel, and donations will go to Reach Out and Read, a grant-funded program in the UToledo Department of Pediatrics.

“Our goal is to give 500 books to Reach and Read; that’s the equivalent of $1,000 — $2 a book,” Laberdee said.

Reach Out and Read prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.

Doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally appropriate books to children.

Locally, the program reaches 15,000 families with young children at 24 pediatric and family practice offices in northwest Ohio. The program distributes 30,000 new books a year.

Nationally, Reach Out and Read programs are located in 6,400 hospitals, health centers and pediatric clinics in all 50 states. The program also serves 4.8 million children and families each year. More than 7.4 million new, developmentally appropriate books are given to children annually.

“I think the book drive is important during this unfortunate time because it allows one to look forward to something and gives people the option to donate to a good cause,” Jessica Asher, family nurse practitioner student, said. “With these hard times in mind, it will help these kids to feel loved and have something to look forward to at their well visits.”

Asher’s favorite book as a child was “Kittens and More Kittens” by Marci Ridlon. These days, she reads “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin to her twin girls.

“We hope to gather donations to give children the gift of reading and new memorable books to take home,” Asher said.

“Doing this virtual book drive through the Reach Out and Read Program, especially during these challenging times, can give people some positivity that they are helping children in need,” Allison Locke, a family nurse practitioner student, said. “Knowing we can help provide books to children through their pediatric care offices brings me so much joy.”

Zecman worked in a pediatric clinical site last semester and saw the program in action.

“Passing out books to all of my pediatrics patients was a great feeling. They would get so excited to get a book, even after they may have had to get poked for blood, they walked out smiling with a book in hand,” Zecman said. “It is especially important during these hard times where kids may not be getting hands-on education every day at school; having a book collection would be so beneficial for the kids that need it the most.”

Donations to the virtual book drive may be made on the Books By the Bushel website.

For more information on the drive, email cassi.laberdee@rockets.utoledo.edu.

CFO to Serve as CEO of UT Medical Center

Richard Swaine will serve as chief executive officer of The University of Toledo Medical Center, effective April 17.

Swaine

Swaine, who has served as the hospital’s chief financial officer for the past year, will assume the leadership position previously held by Dan Barbee. Barbee, who has led the hospital since 2016 and had been a member of the UTMC leadership team since 2011, has accepted a position as president of rural market for Mercy Health – Toledo.

“I’m confident that with his more than 35 years of leadership in the healthcare industry, Rick will provide stable leadership amid this coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing planning efforts underway to set a path forward for UTMC,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said.

“We look forward to working with Rick and continuing to provide high-quality healthcare for our patients,” said Dr. Samer Khouri, UTMC chief of staff and chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. “There’s never been a more critical time for teamwork in the healthcare industry.”

Swaine has served as UTMC’s chief financial officer for the past year. He joined UTMC from Beaumont Health System in Southfield, Mich., where he had served as senior vice president and hospital president of the 280-bed Beaumont Hospital Grosse Pointe since 2008.

Swaine’s long career at Beaumont spanned from 1985 to 2019 in which he also served as vice president of finance for Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak and Beaumont Hospital Troy. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Lawrence Technological Institute and a master’s degree in finance from Walsh College.