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Spaulding Hospital In Cambridge Opens A Dedicated COVID-19 Recovery Unit02:31
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Spaulding Hospital Cambridge. (Courtesy of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network)
Spaulding Hospital Cambridge. (Courtesy of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network)

Joanne Fucile, Spaulding Hospital Cambridge’s director of nursing walks along a corridor in the hospital’s fourth floor. Over a video call, she points at plastic cabinets filled with protective gear waiting outside each door.

“We have all the equipment that we need — the gowns, the gloves,” she says. Then she ducks into one of the rooms and waves her hand at a cleaning station in the corner. “We have the Purell.  We have wipes so [clinicians] can wipe down the equipment they bring into the room.”

Designated places for clean and contaminated items. (Courtesy of Spaulding Hospital Cambridge)
Designated places for clean and contaminated items. (Courtesy of Spaulding Hospital Cambridge)

These are all new additions to Spaulding’s fourth floor, hauled into the unit over the last couple of weeks as the facility prepared to open Monday as a dedicated COVID-19 recovery center.

The only people standing around Fucile are a few other hospital employees, all standing at least six feet apart and wearing masks. That’s new, too.

“Every employee needs to wear a mask,” Fucile says. “When they come in to work, we screen them. We ask them questions about how do they feel, take their temperature before they come into the building. And then they get their surgical mask for the day.”

Once COVID-19 patients at other Mass General Brigham hospitals are on the mend, doctors will transfer them to Spaulding to finish their recovery. The 60-bed unit will get its first patients this week. That will free up space for patients who need more intensive COVID-19 care at Massachusetts General Hospital and other network hospitals.

The unit at Spaulding is one of several clinics that have found new purpose during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boston is opening closed medical facilities, like the Newton Pavilion at Boston Medical Center and another facility in Brighton, to help house and care for the city’s homeless population, and Beth Israel Lahey Health is making space for non-COVID-19 patients at a converted orthopedic hospital that recently suspended most of its procedures.

Beth Israel Lahey Health CEO Kevin Tabb says the efforts are to ensure that hospitals can take as many COVID-19 patients as possible.

“We are not wasting time to get prepared as much as possible for the surge that is almost certainly coming,” he says.

But for now, it’s quiet at Spaulding Hospital. Two patients with COVID-19 are scheduled to arrive this week, though the hospital expects more to come soon.

Nursing manager Pauline Clarke isn’t sure how many patients will come to the unit in total in the coming weeks, but she and her staff are ready to care for as many as they can.

“I’m anxious,” she says. “But I’m excited as well because I think this is all so we can make a difference.”

This segment aired on March 30, 2020.

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Angus Chen Twitter Reporter, CommonHealth
Angus Chen is a reporter for WBUR's CommonHealth.

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