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HNL Lab Medicine Sees Its “World Changed” by COVID-19

By Colin McEvoy on November 19, 2020

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham (left) interviewed Matthew Sorrentino, the CEO of Health Network Laboratories.

A comprehensive diagnostic testing laboratory, HNL Lab Medicine covers 17 counties across Pennsylvania, employs 1,000 people, and oversees 2 million patient encounters and 60 million individual tests a year. But when the coronavirus pandemic first came along, those tests came to a screeching halt.

“The world changed,” Matthew Sorrentino, who became CEO of HNL Lab Medicine in late 2019. “In one day, our business went down and stayed down: down 60%, literally overnight.”

But that was only temporary. By June, HNL Lab Medicine’s business was back to 100% of its pre-pandemic levels, and the company was soon testing for COVID-19 as well. What began as four tests a day eventually reached 2,500 tests daily, and the company now expects to add new staff to accommodate the demand.

Matthew Sorrentino became the CEO of Health Network Laboratories in late 2019.

Sorrentino discussed all this and more during an interview in the final entry in a weekly series the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has conducted with new corporate leaders at some of Lehigh Valley’s leading companies and largest employers.

“In the last 18 months in the Lehigh Valley, we’ve had a record number of changes in the C-suite, in the President & CEO offices running our companies, helping to shape our economy and our future of the Lehigh Valley,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham, who conducted the interview.

The Lehigh Valley Health Network was the presenting sponsor for the series, with Capital BlueCross as the premier sponsor. Gold sponsors included BB&T, now Truist, Fitzpatrick, Lentz & Bubba, and PenTeleData. Crayola and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation were event sponsors for the series; Follett LLC was the interview sponsor, Countess Communications was the production sponsor, and ArtsQuest was the venue sponsor.

New videos were released each Thursday from Sept. 10 to Nov. 19 on LVEDC’s Facebook page. The full video interview with Sorrentino can be viewed below. Current and previous archived videos can be found here and on LVEDC’s YouTube channel.

Sorrentino is new to the HNL Lab Medicine top post, but he’s certainly not new to the Lehigh Valley. A 1970 graduate of Muhlenberg College, he spent most of his career in the region, and was Chairman of the law firm Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus, before becoming Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) in 2018.

LVHN is the majority owner of HNL Lab Medicine, and Sorrentino became CEO of that organization in May 2019. He expected the post to be a temporary one, but in December it became permanent, just four months before the COVID-19 crisis reached the United States.

“When the pandemic hit, I just felt there’d been enough change in leadership at the company that it was not the time to change again,” he said.

During the interview, Sorrentino discussed how HNL Lab Medicine changed its back-end operations to accommodate COVID-19 testing, as well as how the company addressed supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. This included using 3-D printers to make their own swabs for the test.

HNL Lab Medicine employs a highly-skilled workforce, with 40% of its employees holding advanced degrees. That can make finding talent difficult, but Sorrentino said the Lehigh Valley provides that workforce pool thanks in part to the region’s central location and its many excellent educational institutions.

“This has always been an area that, with its colleges and universities, we’ve always had a highly skilled workforce compared to other places, and so we haven’t had that much trouble recruiting people,” he said.

ArtsQuest provided access to indoor space large enough for safe distancing for the interviews. There is no audience for the interviews, which will adhere to public health and social distancing standards.

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