For Immediate Release December 24, 2021

BEL AIR, Md. (December 24, 2021) - For more than a century, UM Upper Chesapeake Health (UM UCH) has been unwavering in our dedication to caring for our communities. During the last month at our two hospitals, UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (UM UCMC) in Bel Air and UM Harford Memorial Hospital (UM HMH) in Havre de Grace, we have seen a substantial increase in COVID-19 positive patients. During that time, cases have gone up a total of 458 percent across both hospitals, and UM UCMC alone has seen a 733 percent increase.

The current demand for care is depleting our available resources, including staffing, and as of December 24, UM UCH has taken the unprecedented step for our organization of declaring a hospital disaster and implementing Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) protocols at UM UCMC.

"This is a critical response to a dynamic situation, is not a decision we made lightly and is one that was made after exhausting all other avenues to address issues that are challenging our operations," said Fermin Barrueto, MD, MBA, UM UCH Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer. "CSC is another step in the continuum of care critical to hospital pandemic surge plans."

UMMS partnered with Johns Hopkins Medicine to establish an approach for how our 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. A few of the changes under CSC protocols may include streamlining processes, modifying surgical schedules consistent with the Governor's recent orders, simplifying documentation and redeploying staff. Implementing CSC protocols allows the flexibility to increase access to care for to those that need it most and enables the hospital to care for as many patients as possible with the staffing they have.

Lyle Sheldon, President and CEO, UM Upper Chesapeake Health, said, "We are doing everything in our power to support our teams and recognize the significant burden they have carried for almost two years. Our team members at UM Harford Memorial Hospital (UM HMH) are similarly impacted and stretched to near-crisis levels. We are monitoring that situation very carefully to take the same action if appropriate."

David Marcozzi, MD, UMMS COVID-19 Incident Commander and Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said, "We are continually exploring all aspects of care delivery to identify new ways to manage our resources. All UMMS hospitals have activated their surge plans and are working to reduce surgical volumes by at least 20 percent, as directed by Governor Hogan. While UM UCH may be the first in Maryland to formally implement CSC, they will not be the last."

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."

Learn more about Crisis Standards of Care at UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.