By LISA EISENHAUER
March 30, 2020
Workers at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington, have stepped up to help at a nearby rehabilitation center where four deaths have been linked to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Linh H. Nguyen, a food and nutrition services worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington, prepares meals to be sent to the privately owned Shuksan Healthcare Center, where dozens of people have tested positive for COVID-19.
Those who died were among at least 52 people who have tested positive for novel coronavirus and whose cases have been traced to an outbreak at the Shuksan Healthcare Center, the rehabilitation facility, local media reported March 29. The center was caring for about 35 patients when the outbreak started and almost all of them have tested positive for coronavirus as have about 20 staff members.
Local news reports say many of those battling the virus at the center are seriously ill. On March 23, the Whatcom County Command Center announced that St. Joseph Medical Center would be shoring up the medical staff at Shuksan by sending registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants for at least four weeks.
All of those going to the rehabilitation center volunteered for the duty, according to the command center, which is coordinating the COVID-19 response for the county that includes Bellingham.
Khanh Trinh, a food and nutrition services worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington, prepares meals to be sent to Shuksan Healthcare Center, a rehabilitation center in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak. Along with supplying meals, the medical center is sending nurses and nursing assistants to help at the rehabilitation center.
The command center did not say how many staffers PeaceHealth is loaning to the rehabilitation center. A report from local TV station KING 5 said it was eight.
The nurses and assistants will not work at any other facilities during the time they are working at Shuksan and afterward they will go on a two-week paid furlough, according to a statement on the command center's website.
Bellingham Police Lt. Claudia Murphy, spokesperson for Whatcom Unified Command, told KING 5: "These caregivers recognized that the patients need skilled care and they're willing to provide that. That is an unbelievable thing and they should be lauded for it."
In addition to the nursing assistance, St. Joseph's food and nutrition Services team is preparing three meals a day for Shuksan. The meals are being transported by the Whatcom Transit Authority.
PeaceHealth posted about the assistance it is providing the privately owned rehabilitation center on its blog called The Caregiver. "As Chief Nursing Officer Roseanna Bell said, we're all here for one another as we 'wrap our arms around that one facility and ensure that they have everything they need,'" the blog post said.
To those workers who stepped up to help at Shuksan, it added: "Thank you for going well above and beyond the call of duty to uphold the PeaceHealth mission."