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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU’s College of Health Sciences, Hospital Connected Beyond Crisis

By Irvin B. Harrell

Overseeing the operations of a hospital is a tall task, but doing so during a pandemic - like other disaster scenarios - presents additional challenges.

Ask Tom Orsini, the president and chief executive officer at Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital in Norfolk.

Orsini, who has led the hospital for 19 years, also has forged a bond with Old Dominion University - a connection that has paid off not only for the university's students, faculty and administrators, but also for assistance in times of trouble.

During the past two weeks, ODU's College of Health Sciences has donated needed supplies to the hospital. And Orsini has been very appreciative.

After seeing a television report featuring Lake Taylor, Bonnie Van Lunen - dean of the college - solicited the college's five schools in an effort to gather supplies to help the hospital. On March 26, she packed up her pickup and headed to the hospital with a load of gloves, wipes, gowns and masks.

"We knew we would not need these items in the current state of the pandemic, but that many organizations and providers would," she said. "The Dental Hygiene Care Facility had a plethora of gloves, masks and sanitizers to donate, while others contributed what they had available."

On April 2, the hospital received another ODU visitor - Karen Karlowicz, chair of the college's School of Nursing. Answering Lake Taylor's request for thermometer probe covers, she packed supplies donated from her skills lab and physical assessment rooms at the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center and headed to Norfolk.

"I just expected to drop off the bag of thermometer probe covers with the receptionist," she said. "But when I arrived, Tom Orsini was in the lobby waiting for me! They were relieved to get the covers."

Across the nation, many hospitals have been struggling to get personal protection equipment (PPE). Lake Taylor is a 296-bed post-acute facility, where people often come to recover after surgery. PPE is essential, Orsini said, because many of his patients are elderly.

"We need PPE to protect our patients - many who are older and fall into the vulnerable category when I come to COVID-19," he said. "We also need protective gear for our staff so they don't spread anything."

Orsini said his hospital is prepared to assist other hospitals if they suffer an overload of patients.

"Bigger hospitals in Hampton Roads so far are doing a good job of treating folks," said Orsini, who has spent 40 years in the health-care management services industry.

Orsini's connection with ODU is a strong one. He has been a College of Health Sciences Advisory Board member for years, supporting the college and helping it build on its successes. He also has enjoyed first-hand contact with students from the college.

"Many of the college's physical therapy students perform their practicums here at Lake Taylor," he said. "And some of them end up working here."

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