In a time of separation, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health are more connected than ever.
The strength of the two health care organizations working as one has had profound benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strong on their own, the providers merged to create a wider reach, and more opportunities to provide first-class health care, in early 2019.
Together, the organizations serve more than half of U.S. states.
Enough PPE on hand
Teaming up especially helps when it comes to having enough personal protective equipment and other resources needed to ensure safety during a pandemic.
“We haven’t run out and we don’t anticipate running out. It’s only because of that coordination and that emphasis,” says Good Samaritan Society President Randy Bury. “Us, as Good Samaritan, being part of something so much larger than we would be on our own.”
Randy says because of the size of both the Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health, each organization has had more access to needed resources than they would have before. This has been critical during the pandemic, because long-term care centers house those most at risk.
“Just the access to suppliers and the access to inventory. It’s no question when we can produce, in Worthington, face shields and send them to all the Good Samaritan locations. That’s a huge benefit.
“It’s one of those things that provides comfort to people. There are people working on our behalf to make sure we can provide the equipment to keep our residents and our staff safe,” says Randy.
Greg Johnson is the chief medical officer of the Good Samaritan Society.
He said both providers have noticed increased access to equipment through the pandemic, something not many health care organizations can say.
“Our footprint extends across the nation. There have been national shortages in personal protective equipment like masks and eye shields. While other facilities have had to depend on typical vendors, who are lacking supply also, the Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health partners with a local business to start manufacturing eye shields.
“These have been disseminated across our footprint,” says Dr. Johnson.
The Good Samaritan Society was able to “quickly resource suppliers to get our locations hand sanitizer and face shields,” according to Nate Schema, vice president of operations. He also says the organization implemented surgical masks enterprise-wide on April 6, even before the CDC recommended such action.
In-house COVID-19 testing
The two companies merging into one has also had a positive impact when it comes to testing availability, according to Dr. Johnson.
“Sanford here in Sioux Falls had the foresight to push hard early on to get its testing capabilities ramped up. That foresight is paying for the “family” by allowing some of the states in the Good Samaritan Society’s rural footprint to access Sanford testing out of Sioux Falls to meet their local needs,” he says.
Dr. Johnson says comprehensive testing was recently needed for a Good Samaritan Society location.
That need showcased just how strong the two companies are together.
“One of our South Dakota facilities had an outbreak of COVID-19. We needed to urgently test its employees and patients. I texted (Sanford chief medical officer) Dr. Suttle that morning to apprise her of the need. By early afternoon, Sanford had set up a mobile testing tent outside the facility. By 4 p.m., 211 tests were collected,” says Dr. Johnson.
“I can’t believe we’ve done this very many times, but the boots on the ground on this one was amazing. Everyone showed so much cooperation and expertise. We truly are stronger together.”