Tower Health updates COVID-19 visitation policy

Tower Health has announced changes in its visitation for hospitals in its network, including Reading Hospital in West Reading and Pottstown Hospital in Pottstown.

The changes are aimed to protect patients, staff and the community as the number of COVID-19 cases rise.

Starting Nov. 27, no visitors, except those deemed medically necessary, will be allowed in the hospital.

Some exceptions will be made.

In hospital adult inpatient units:

  • Two visitors for end-of-life patients.
  • Two visitors for COVID-19 positive patients at the end-of-life.
  • Visitors for COVID-19 positive patients who are not end-of-life are permitted only by exception based on clinical judgment.
  • Patients with disabilities (including those who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19) may have one designated support person or guardian stay with them during hospital visiting hours, and one visitor may remain overnight if the hospital can accommodate them.


In NICU, inpatient pediatric units, emergency departments, and physician practices:

  • Parents and guardians of pediatric and NICU patients are permitted.
  • Identified times for NICU visitation may be implemented, and the number of parents visiting the NICU at same time may be limited based on the number of patients and capacity to assure social distancing and protection of patients, staff, and visitors.


In maternity units:

  • One designated support person is permitted.
  • Doulas are considered part of the care team and are permitted.


In emergency departments and psychiatric emergency departments:

  • One visitor per patient in the emergency department only when the patient is a minor (under 18), the patient has a disability, or the visitor is the patient’s communicator and in specific cases of interpreter need.


At Reading Hospital Rehabilitation at Wyomissing:

  • No visitors, except those deemed medically necessary, will be permitted.
  • No children under the age of 18 or pets will be permitted.


Patients who are not suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 may receive religious services from clergy.

A patient’s care team will decide on a case-by-case basis whether having a visitor is clinically appropriate, including when the visitor is a family member supporting the patient by providing care.

There are also changes to outpatient services.


In surgical and outpatient procedure departments:

  • One support person may accompany patient for outpatient and same-day surgery or procedure.
  • Guidelines for waiting, notification post procedure, and discharge are specific to each hospital and department and will be communicated to the patient during pre-op/pre-procedure education. If the patient is to be admitted after surgery, the support person will be permitted to visit for a short period while the patient is in recovery.


In physician practices, urgent care practices, and ambulatory surgery locations:

  • One designated support person is permitted.
  • No switching of support persons is permitted during the visit.
  • Support persons must remain in the waiting area unless: the patient is a minor (under 18), the patient has a disability, or the visitor is the patient’s communicator and in specific cases of interpreter need.

“As cases surge in our hospitals and communities we must prioritize the health and safety of our patients and team members. As a community we must remain vigilant to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Please continue to wear your mask, wash your hands with soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitizer if soap is not available, and practice social distancing,” said Dr. Debra Powell, chief of Infectious Disease and medical director of infection prevention at Reading Hospital.

Most area hospitals score well in latest Leapfrog safety rating

The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization focused on improving hospital safety, released their biannual safety ratings of the nation’s hospitals Nov. 7. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade ratings, released as grades from A to F, reflect how well hospitals protect patients from accidents, errors, injuries, infections and other harms. The majority of area hospitals received A grades, while a few earned B, C, and even D ratings.

The safety score is designed to give the public information that is useful for choosing a hospital for care.

Here in the Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley Health Network’s hospitals at Pocono, Hazleton, and Cedar Crest hospital all earned A grades, performing above average in most safety categories, while LVH Schuylkill received a B grade.

Easton Hospital in Easton, owned by Steward Health Care, earned a safety grade of C.

In the St. Luke’s University Health Network, the hospital campuses at Bethlehem, Allentown, Anderson, Monroe, Quakertown and Miners all were awarded the top grade of A, while St. Luke’s Sacred Heart achieved a B grade. St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten campus, however, received a D, performing below average on preventing hospital errors and in other categories.

Pottstown Hospital, a Tower Health-owned hospital in Pottstown, was also given a D rating. The hospital performed below average on preventing hospital errors, and had higher rates of some surgery complications, including dangerous blood clots.

In Berks County, Reading Hospital was awarded the A safety grade, while St. Joseph Medical Center earned a C.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. acute-care hospitals, who voluntarily participate free of charge.

The Leapfrog safety grade’s scoring methodology is peer-reviewed and designed to be fully transparent. The results, free to the public, are available to view here-https://www.hospitalsafetygrade.org/your-hospitals-safety-grade

Some jobs eliminated, other positions created, at Tower Health’s Chestnut Hill and Pottstown Hospitals

Tower Health, the Berks county-based health system, has announced that it is restructuring its nursing units at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, and Pottstown Hospital in Pottstown, resulting in the elimination of 32 jobs at Chestnut Hill, and 33 at Pottstown.

At Chestnut Hill Hospital, this change will impact 23 unit clerks, five patient greeters, and five patient sitters, all of whom are union members. At Pottstown Hospital, this change will impact 22 union-member unit secretaries and 10 non-union patient sitters. Pottstown Hospital does not have patient greeters.

While the changes will result in the loss of a job for some employees, new positions will also open, the hospital said.

Chestnut Hill Hospital is opening 18 new positions in the nursing units, while Pottstown Hospital is creating 24 positions, 13 of which are patient care assistant positions. The PCA positions at Pottstown represent new union positions at the Hospital. The addition of PCA positions was based upon nursing staff feedback on ways to improve patient care.

According to a statement from Tower Health, “these changes aim to improve care delivery and coordination on nursing units and create a consistent model for care across the Tower Health hospitals.”

The change also is designed to support the recent installation of the Epic electronic health record across Tower Health, which enables nursing and other clinical staff to share information in order to improve clinical quality.

Tower Health states that some impacted employees have already accepted new positions within Tower Health, and that those who have not will be provided severance.