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Early measures to combat COVID-19 paid off for QV Healthcare

  • Managing owner Scott Wheeler stands outside Quabbin Valley Healthcare in Athol. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2020 4:51:33 PM

ATHOL — Quabbin Valley Healthcare on Daniel Shays Highway closed its skilled-nursing facility to unnecessary visitations on March 11 because its owner and administrator saw what COVID-19 was doing in other parts of the world and was starting to do in the states.

“We banded together and decided it would only be necessary visitors, like physicians, nurses and people visiting loved ones for end-of-life,” said Michael Kachadoorian, assistant administrator at the facility. “We’ve taken steps right along to keep our residents and staff safe, and we tighten them every time we need to or are directed by the state to do so.”

Kachadoorian said there is one way in and out of the building and the door is locked until someone is allowed entry.

“Before they are allowed in the building, we take their temperature, and this includes staff on a daily basis, we ask pointed questions, like whether they’ve traveled or been in contact with someone who might have COVID-19, and whether they are working somewhere where they are in constant contact or been to a facility where there are known cases.”

Kachadoorian said there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at Quabbin Valley Healthcare. He said everyone who is allowed into the building must wear a mask. He said the facility has increased the number of hand sanitation stations, provided health care workers with pocket-size hand sanitizers so they have it on them at all times, and taught everyone, including patients, proper hand-washing measures.

“We have infection controls in place,” he said. “Our staff is provided with proper protective gear, and we’re constantly asking for donations of personal protection, N95 masks, any kind of PPE supplies anyone can provide.”

He said there are three units within the facility and a room in all three for isolation should a case arise.

“We’ve banned anything from outside coming into the building,” he said. “That includes lunch, coffee from restaurants, anything. We are also doing all patients’ laundry on site. Sometimes families would take laundry home.”

Kachadoorian said the facility has eliminated as much potential exposure as possible.

“Deliveries are left outside for several hours, and then we clean them with proper protocol,” he said.

Quabbin Valley Healthcare currently has 137 residents, he said. There are about 200 staff members who work three different shifts. He said all staff members do direct care in their units — there are no floaters at this point moving from unit to unit.

“If someone has a private office, they can take their mask off when the door is closed. Otherwise, we all keep masks on at all times, including if we have a meeting where people stay 6 or more feet apart.”

He said the two physicians that visit the facility have led the charge for following protocol as per the state Department of Public Health.

“If someone should at some point show symptoms, we will either quarantine them here, if they’re a resident, or ask them to self-quarantine at home.”

Kachadoorian said the staff is committed to making sure residents don’t feel more isolated than they already do living in a skilled-nursing facility.

“They can talk with family over Zoom or FaceTime, and we allow window meetings with loved ones,” he said. “We’re providing activities in a very safe, structured way.”

Scott Wheeler, owner and administrator of the facility, said every morning administrators and staff talk about new ways they can protect the residents and themselves.

“We review where we are, what we need to be doing and throw out any ideas anyone has about making things even better,” he said. “We’re eliminating every chance for this virus to get in here. I hope the community at-large is doing the same so we can flatten this curve and get back to a semi-normal life.”

Wheeler said he believes the next two to three weeks will be tough as the state expects things to get worse by mid-April before getting better.

“We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing,” he said.

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