ADAPT Community Network’s nurses, healthcare staff, and Direct Service Providers have engaged in heroic efforts to meet the needs of our community. They are working around the clock to ensure the people we support, and staff are safe. Rose Wargo, Vice President of Nursing, helped to put all the necessary steps in place to ensure the safety of people supported and staff. She spent four full days burning the midnight oil reviewing data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to ensure our staff was well informed and best prepared to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Through her leadership and guidance, Rose and her team have done a tremendous job in helping to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus that is affecting so many within the I/DD community. ADAPT’s DSPs, staff, and nurses worked together, which has made all the difference in helping to keep everyone protected. Their primary focus is on prevention. Since some of the people we support need a lot of help, Direct Service Providers can’t really distance themselves from people that they are caring for. The preventive measures put in place have made all difference to the ADAPT community.
ADAPT’s nursing team implemented new practices and safety measures that would be carried out by each program. Essential workers in ADAPT’s residential programs would have their temperatures taken as soon as they arrive to work to ensure they do not have a fever. Those who were discovered to have a fever were instructed to go home and self-quarantine, which has helped to minimize the risk of spreading the virus among staff who didn’t know they were sick.
Additionally, ADAPT purchased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cots, and other emergency supplies to prepare for the crisis. Rose took inventory of all the PPE we had across the agency and was able to figure out the burn rate for each. She worked closely with Facilities and Purchasing to coordinate efforts in purchasing additional equipment and distribute them to all ADAPT’s residential locations throughout New York City. Each staff have three masks per day, which is upwards of about 15,000 masks a week overall. Currently, ADAPT is fortunate to have enough supplies available for six weeks due to the fast actions taken by ADAPT’s leadership team.
In addition to the new systems in place, nurses also increased mandatory training for staff so that both directors and nurses could reinforce important information around using gloves, masks, and protective equipment effectively, while also reviewing general universal precautions and infection control guidelines. The training also included information specific to COVID-19, such as identifying symptoms, preventive actions, environmental cleaning and disinfection, and emergency procedures. The training was also added to our Learning Management System so staff could review training online individually to prevent unnecessarily gathering in groups for training purposes.
One individual at our 8th avenue residence was infected with the virus. Staff were so calm and acted immediately, calling 911 and reporting to the nurses when EMS arrived. Thanks to the fantastic guidance, support, and training of our nurses, Direct Service Providers were able to successfully get the persons into the Emergency Room so they could get the care they needed. Although this was a crisis, they knew exactly what to do and were able to get him the additional care required to stabilize him.
One of the challenges for our staff is that hospitals across New York City are managing COVID-19 patients differently. Since DSPs are unable to accompany the people we support in the hospital, ADAPT’s nurses require that they are kept up-to-date with notifications around the status of the wellbeing of the person supported. As soon as someone goes into the hospital, one of the nurses calls the Emergency Room to help advocate for them and ask to be notified if they are moved to a different floor so we can remain in contact with them throughout the duration of their hospital stay. ADAPT requires a discharge plan from the hospital before they can come back into residences. The discharge plan is necessary to have a better understanding if someone needs to be quarantined and how to be cared for once returning to their home—this aids in safeguarding everyone in contact with the infected individual.
In each borough, there is a quarantine location where those who are recovering from COVID-19 can reside until they are back in full health. When persons supported are in isolation, staff are identified that can stay with those recovering and are trained on everything they need to know, including diet requirements, food consistency, medication, and general care specific to the individual. We quarantine persons supported in units that are not occupied by anyone else. They are isolated with one staff member who will be responsible for attending to their individual needs.
Rose stated, “I am so proud to have such a great team and colleagues throughout the organization. From day one, everyone was asking how they could help and what was needed to put all our protective measures in place. Everything I asked for I received.” She continued, “I can’t say enough about the agency. Everyone is concerned with the common good, and that’s why we are succeeding. The level of dedication and bravery of our staff is truly remarkable. The things they are doing day-to-day for the people we support is the type of thing you would do for your family.”
Linda Laul, Chief Operating Officer at ADAPT stated, “This pandemic has demonstrated so clearly for us ‘that it takes a village!’ At ADAPT, our village is amazing! Everyone in it, from our custodians and maintenance staff, our purchasing department, and most importantly, our nurses and Direct Support Professionals, are working tirelessly to provide the supports necessary to keep our folks safe. Our leadership team provides oversight and direction and coordinates everyone’s efforts to maximize safety for the people we support as well as our front-line staff. We are so indebted to each and every person in our ADAPT family! Thank you!”