Harbor Health Services shifts focus to infected elders in need

Gretchen Reynard, NP, executive director of Harbor Health Elder Service Plan.

For elderly COVID-19 patients who require specialized care, the transition out of in-hospital care can be filled with complexities and obstacles.
Upon being discharged, many encounter situations in which family members are sick or unable to care for them, while others find themselves not allowed to reenter their assisted living or nursing homes because they had tested positive for the virus.

With the aim of filling this gap in care, Harbor Health Services in Mattapan launched a new approach last week at its facility on Morton Street.  The 10-bed Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly Respite Center, which has admitted five patients since opening on May 11, will be a temporary home for patients as they fight the latter stages of the virus, explained Gretchen Reynard, senior vice president and executive director of the Harbor Health Elder Service Plan.

“It’s generally for people that have been hospitalized and live at assisted living or nursing homes, and because they are COVID-positive, they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Reynard. “It made sense from a quality-of-care standpoint and a financial standpoint to open up our own facility and give them a place to stay until they’re negative.”

Reynard said the task of creating the new facility involved emptying out the facility’s day center and transforming it into the new space by bringing in hospital beds, building partitions to give each patient his or her own space, and sealing off the second floor to eliminate access to any other parts of the building.

The center also had to make adjustments in staffing to accommodate its 24/7 operation. Previously, the facility had been open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Over the course of their stay, patients in the center will be tested regularly until the result is negative, said Reynard. Harbor Health has been using test equipment supplied by Quest Diagnostics. 

“It’s been a little bit challenging; there’s not an overabundant supply of tests,” said Reynard. “The process is one of those things that is going to evolve as we figure it out, but we anticipate testing people at least once a week, with patients having to test negative twice to be released.”

Reynard added that the crisis has rallied her coworkers and care providers around a common goal.

“While this COVID pandemic has been a challenge, I think we’ve also seen an amazing ability for the team at Harbor Health Services to come together in a way we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to experience,” said Reynard. “They’re coming together for each other, and they’re coming together for the community, so that part of it has been a phenomenal experience.”