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Early Action, Strong Protocols & Leadership Help The Village at Heritage Point Conquer COVID-19

Posted Date: 6/9/2021

March 18, 2020 came to be known to the leadership at The Village at Heritage Point in Morgantown, West Virginia, as “the day the world stopped.” That day marked the first confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in Monongalia County, which put everyone—especially those serving seniors—on high alert.

However, amid all the uncertainty and chaos, team members at The Village at Heritage Point were already working hard behind the scenes to ensure that they could control the virus’ impact, not the other way around.

“I began following COVID-19 and its effects in late 2019 and early 2020 and saw how it affected the nursing home in Washington state,” said Executive Director Wilma Sternthal. “Right away I could tell this would be serious and we had to prepare. So, in February of 2020, I reached out to our president and CEO of Mon Health, David Goldberg, and asked to be a part of the response team. From there, I immediately got in touch with our local, state, and federal organizations to stay informed through their conference calls.”

The early action by Sternthal, recently recognized as a “Healthcare Hero” by WV Living Healthy magazine, would prove critical in keeping The Village at Heritage Point’s residents, staff and families protected. And it went far beyond just staying informed.

Sternthal and the community’s experienced leadership team took decisive action in the early stages of the pandemic. Team members quickly adjusted operations and implemented strong protocols so that the community’s residents could remain safe, healthy, and engaged. Preventing COVID-19 meant that The Village at Heritage Point had to adapt its operations to what became the “new normal.” Residents were mandated to remain in their homes, everyone was required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) around others, healthcare appointments transitioned to telemedicine when possible and meal service was converted to a delivery-only system.

“We were challenged with meeting the needs of our staff, residents, and families in very creative ways,” Sternthal added. “And we learned so much each day, we just had to remain flexible. You need a willing team to do all that, and a team that’s fast on their feet.”

The proactive connections made by Sternthal and her team at the beginning of the pandemic are also helping a great deal with bringing it to an end.

“From regularly attending those conference calls, we knew when the Pfizer doses would come out. We signed up right away and had doses in arms within 48 hours of their delivery to West Virginia. We were one of the first communities in the state to administer these crucial vaccines,” Sternthal said.

She explained that being a part of the Mon Health network helped ensure that The Village staff could execute a vaccine clinic within just two days of receiving the call that vaccines would be available. Most residents and staff received their first doses on December 16, 2020, and their second doses on January 6, 2021. Now, The Village at Heritage Point is not just a local, but also a national leader in preventing and vaccinating against COVID-19. As of publishing, 100 percent of assisted living residents are fully vaccinated, more than 98 percent of independent living residents are fully vaccinated and 85 percent of staff are either fully vaccinated.

“The acquisition of the vaccine so early on for the residents was nothing short of amazing and is so very appreciated,” said Rebecca Schmidt, DO, FACP, FASN, local nephrologist with WVU Medicine and daughter of a recent resident at The Village.

“I was fortunate to be living at The Village at Heritage Point during the pandemic,” added Judy Paul Osha, MD, FAAP, retired pediatrician and independent living resident. “When we were not allowed to gather, movies were sent directly to our rooms, puzzles and games were distributed frequently and food was delivered to our door.

“When the Pfizer vaccine became available, we did not have to search the internet for appointment times, nor were we forced to stand in long lines. In the very first week it was available, we were vaccinated here in the lobby. I am grateful for Mon Health; I feel safe that we follow their guidelines.”

Encouraged by where The Village stands today with its vaccinations and good track record, Sternthal is pleased that many normal activities have resumed with modified safety protocols still in place. It’s a balance between maintaining safety and meeting residents’ psychosocial, physical and spiritual needs, she said. Plus, visitors are allowed on campus again, which has lifted everyone’s spirits.

“Spring always brings hope,” she said. “People are a lot happier, and that’s thanks to the efforts of our entire staff. Everyone’s role was just as significant as mine. We are all the success story.”

Why wait? Start LIVING with us! For more information, visit our website at www.Heritage-Point.com or Mon Health at http://www.MonHealth.comIf you would like to learn more about The Village at Heritage Point, we encourage you to call 304.285.5575 or toll-free at 877-285-5575.
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