Hospital Battles Pandemic with Expertise and Community Education

Hospital Battles Pandemic with Expertise and Community Education

NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital — Corporate Citizen of the Year

For almost 45 years, Glenbrook Hospital has been the community’s comprehensive medical center — highly respected, and perhaps taken somewhat for granted. In 2020, however, this venerable institution mobilized to face the onslaught of COVID-19, taking on the role of primary COVID treatment site for the multi-campus NorthShore University HealthSystem.  The Chamber’s Corporate Citizen Award honors the herculean efforts of Glenbrook’s medical professionals, administrators, and other staff on behalf of patients and the general community.

In March 2020, NorthShore’s leadership developed the strategy of centralizing COVID treatment as a way to control exposure to the highly contagious virus.  Glenbrook was designated as the COVID center because of its design and infrastructure; much of the building’s airflow could be redirected, and contractors were able to make quick HVAC adaptations to other areas.

After swift intra-system transfers of patients, Glenbrook became a COVID-only facility on April 1 and remained that way through the harrowing spring months. At its peak in May, 151 COVID cases were being treated at the 170-bed facility.  Roughly 1000 COVID patients have been hospitalized at Glenbrook as of January 2021, including around 60 at the present time.

“Our system has always recognized the benefits of concentrating expertise at specific locations,” notes Glenbrook President Jesse Peterson Hall. “By creating a COVID center at Glenbrook, our staff became uniquely equipped and skilled in treating these patients.”

As COVID cases dropped during the summer, Glenbrook gradually reverted units back to general purposes, a process that required five to seven days of thorough disinfection. By late fall, most of those units had been converted back to COVID care as infections rebounded.  The hospital’s staff has shown remarkable adaptability to changing protocols, but the ongoing challenges of treating COVID patients inevitably takes a toll.

“Most people who contract COVID-19 will not need to be hospitalized, but those who do are frequently very sick.  Our staff, especially nurses and respiratory therapists, are dealing with a much higher mortality rate in their patients than they’ve ever experienced,” says Hall.  “That’s part of the reason why we’ve been so adamant about the importance of health practices in the community like wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.  We see every day how bad this virus is, and we want to protect people from it.”

That mission to educate the public about COVID prevention has taken a number of forms. Hall represents the hospital on the Glenview Northbrook Coronavirus Task Force, which since last March has used the communication channels of Village governments, school districts, libraries, park districts, and Chambers to disseminate timely, accurate information.  Community outreach, led by Northbrook Chamber Board Member Hania Fuschetto, takes advantage of longstanding partnerships to arrange informational webinars with a variety of groups.

“We’ve hosted virtual Town Hall-style meetings with school districts, faith-based organizations, the Southeast Asian community, and other groups.  Working with leaders in those communities helps us overcome language differences, cultural barriers, and other issues,” explains Fuschetto.  Demographic information on infection trends helps identify areas where outreach is especially needed.

Social media has also been a vital tool in sharing best practices for virus prevention.  Since November, NorthShore has presented an interactive COVID Community Checkup every Thursday via Facebook Live, where viewers can submit their questions to be answered by the system’s Chief Medical Officer.  NorthShore also offers a variety of shareable graphics to encourage individuals and businesses to be “Safety Ambassadors” by following and promoting prevention strategies.

While Glenbrook’s team continues to battle the pandemic both in the hospital and in the community, they make a point of stating their appreciation for the support they have received from individuals, businesses, and local organizations.  “So many people sent meals to our staff, especially in the early months,” recalls Hall. “They definitely enjoyed the food, but even more they were thankful for the thoughtfulness of the community.”  The hospital returns the favor with support of the Northfield Township Food Pantry through a food recovery program that donates unused items from the facility’s dining services.

As the state moves toward a wider vaccination rollout, Glenbrook Hospital is working to vaccinate its own staff and awaiting direction from the state and local health departments.  Each small victory is a cause for celebration: when a COVID patient is discharged, everyone in the building hears The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” played over the loudspeaker.  However long it takes to move past the current crisis, Northbrook will be able to rely on the expertise and dedication demonstrated by the entire Glenbrook Hospital team, which has gone far above and beyond as a true corporate citizen.

Chamber members are encouraged to join an informative webinar on COVID-19 vaccines presented by Jeff Thiel, Assistant VP of Pharmacy Services for NorthShore University HealthSystem, on Tuesday, February 9 at 2:30 p.m. RSVP here.

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  • The Northbrook Chamber will celebrate its Business Award Winners and recognize new Board members at its 2021 Annual Meeting on Thursday, February 25 , Noon.  The yearly event will be adapted for the Zoom format, with special tributes and an interactive Town Hall segment.  Complimentary for members.