Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, speaks at a news conference at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.  (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)
Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, speaks at a news conference at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

A Covid-19 patient at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health is receiving a cutting-edge treatment.

The patient is the first in Lancaster County to be put on ECMO, or "extracorporeal membrane oxygenation," as therapy for coronavirus, Dr. Michael Ripchinski, LGH's chief clinical officer, said Tuesday.

An ECMO system acts like an artificial lung, with blood pumped out of a patient's body, oxygenated, and pumped back in. A Washington Post article calls it a "last-ditch, 'Hail Mary' option," used when even ventilators aren't sufficient to keep patients alive.

LGH is one of 12 health systems in Pennsylvania with ECMO capability, Ripchinski said.

As he does each week, Ripchinski provided updates on Lancaster County's Covid-19 status at Tuesday's briefing, which was hosted by the county commissioners.

Reminding his listeners that coronavirus is more contagious than flu, he reiterated his calls to practice social distancing, wear masks and wash hands. He called contact tracing "critical" to controlling Covid-19's spread.

Among other takeaways:

  • On Saturday, 84 patients tested positive for Covid-19, Lancaster County's second highest daily total of new cases since the pandemic began;
  • LGH has 50 Covid-19 inpatients, of whom 10 are in critical care and 4 are on ventilation;
  • 75% of the county's Covid-19 fatalities have occurred in long-term care facilities. In part, that's because many terminal patients "want to approach death in a familiar setting" rather than being moved, Ripchinski said. He praised the care teams who have "bravely and professionally" cared for them;
  • While almost all Covid-19 fatalities are age 60 and up, 75% of infections are among patients aged 20 to 65;
  • To care for all its patients, LGH has ramped up its telemedicine efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, conducting more than 85,000 phone and video consultations with patients since mid-March. Its video consultations are up more than 250%.

 

Tim Stuhldreher