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Published on July 30, 2021

A mid-summer message from Mike Lauf, Cape Cod Healthcare CEO

Michael Lauf

As we reach the mid-point of the summer season, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has stayed the course with Cape Cod Healthcare over the past year. Thank you to those of you who show up every day to take care of our patients, thank you to those who support the care of our patients, and thank you to our community for your patience, understanding and support.

As I have walked around hospitals and outpatient facilities this summer, I have been deeply touched by the incredible care our physicians and staff are providing in the busiest of times.

Recently, I toured the beautiful new JML Care Center facility and was so inspired to see staff taking caring of our short-term and long-term patients - and doing it with a smile. One nurse who had recently broken her hand showed up to work because she knew help was needed and she wanted to be there for her patients and her colleagues.

I met another nurse on Mugar 3 at Cape Cod Hospital who also came in for an extra shift because we were busy and needed staff. She made her patients feel so confident in the care they were receiving.

We have doctors working extra shifts in our ERs and Urgent Care Centers. We have maintenance people coming in at all hours of the night to make sure that our air handling systems are working during heat waves. The VNA is going into homes to care for people, providing such a necessary lifeline for patients at this time and at all times. Our physicians, advanced practice clinicians and staff at the Medical Affiliates of Cape Cod offices continue to provide incredible care for patients in primary care and specialty care settings, even with physician and staff shortages.

These are just a few of the inspirational examples I have seen lately. The list goes on and on, and I am reminded every day what an incredible organization this is.

I’m so proud of our team because during the busiest times, when so many haven’t come back to the workforce yet, our employees remained committed to our patients and this organization.

We’ve waited nearly 18 months to welcome everybody back to the Cape and they have returned in droves. Our ERs are back to 2019 volumes. Our inpatient volume and surgeries are rising. People are returning because they trust Cape Cod Healthcare to provide the quality care we have come to be known for.

As of this writing, the increase in COVID-19 positive cases on Cape Cod has not translated into increased hospitalizations. The region has done an amazing job with our vaccination numbers, with the highest rates in the state. This means that most people, if they are vaccinated, will be protected from the illness, even the highly-infectious Delta variant. Vaccinated people who do happen to contract the virus, unless they have underlying health concerns that put them at extreme risk, will likely suffer from mild symptoms, if any at all. Out of an abundance of caution, we have updated our hospital visitation policy to limit the number of visitors coming to the hospital.

Our preparedness to pick up the surge in volumes in our ERs and Urgent Care Centers (for non-COVID-19 complaints) is no accident. Our strategy over the past decade has been to position Cape Cod Healthcare in a way that we would be nimble enough to weather any storm that came along – and continue to provide high-quality care throughout. We took a system that was hospital-based and, over the years, have incorporated a strong ambulatory strategy. We have done this by opening five new Urgent Care Centers; by moving primary care and specialty care to areas that need them; and by moving imaging and lab closer to where people live. It allowed us to see hundreds of thousands more people in outpatient settings who would ordinarily have come to the hospital.

We moved care to the Lower Cape, which has traditionally been a medically underserved area. We opened Urgent Care at Fontaine Outpatient Center in Harwich, which right now is seeing an unprecedented volume. We moved cardiology specialty to the Oppenheim Medical Building in Chatham. And next year, we will open a medical facility in Orleans.

We opened a new Urgent Care Center in Osterville, consolidated obstetrics at Cape Cod Hospital, moved Women’s Health Services to Cuda Women’s Health Center in Hyannis, repurposed Stoneman Outpatient Center with imaging and lab and urgent care. We continue to invest in Falmouth, such as building a stronger orthopedic care presence.

The fact that we’ve evolved the system from a largely hospital-centric one to one that’s balanced well between the ambulatory care arena and the acute care arena has allowed us to capitalize on how the industry has changed. The fact of the matter is that when you go back to the year 2000, 75 cents of every healthcare dollar was spent in the hospital. Today, 75 cents of every healthcare dollar is spent in the ambulatory area. That just shows you that the strategies we put in place – that we had the discipline to pursue and build – were responsive to the changing healthcare landscape.

While we certainly haven’t gotten everything right, we were the first in the market in so many ventures that have allowed us to maintain our strong market share.

And I am eternally grateful to our incredible physicians and staff, who believed in these strategies and adapted and flourished right along with this evolving framework. Our ideas and vision were - and will continue to be - only as good as the people who helped make them a reality, and they, along with our incredible community members who have supported us, are the reason Cape Cod Healthcare is the quality, respected system it is today.

Some may wonder whether we had to put some of our ideas and plans on hold during the pandemic, but the fact is we never stopped thinking about the future. We had more than a year where, as the only safety net organization on the Cape, we had to be here for our population, whether it be treatment, whether it be testing, whether it be PPE, whether it be vaccination of the public, whether it be access. We were open, and we never stopped thinking about what was next.

That’s why we went ahead with the installation of the new electronic record system, Epic, during the pandemic. We knew we needed a better system and we knew we needed to be a more integrated health system. We knew it was going to be difficult to do, but we did it anyway because we could see that the future was coming faster than most people in our business believe.

We are moving forward with our plans to build a new cancer center, because with people living longer with the disease, a new center is non-negotiable. We have to create the access. It’s why we joined the Dana-Farber Cancer Care Collaborative, which will help us and our patients.

We are moving forward with plans to launch a trauma program in the next year, and to expand our ORs along with it. There is no question that we need to keep the 350 or so trauma patients who are needlessly sent across the bridges for care every year right here at Cape Cod Hospital.

We completed the $15 million makeover of JML Care Center in Falmouth and we will invest significant capital into Heritage at Falmouth, so our aging population has top-quality care, services and surroundings. We continue to recruit the best physicians in their fields, along with advanced practice clinicians.

As far as I’m concerned, Cape Cod Healthcare is just getting started on its journey to being one of the best health systems in the country. We’re certainly not licking our wounds from a pandemic; we’re looking around the corner to see what’s next. I’m incredibly grateful that so many of you are looking in the same direction along with us.

- Mike

Michael K. Lauf

President and CEO, Cape Cod Healthcare