The Maryland Baptist Aged Home was established in 1920, and today it has 30 residents and 21 full-time and 19 part-time employees. Its director is Rev. Derrick DeWitt, the pastor of First Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Sandtown-Winchester. The deciding factor in DeWitt’s success versus this highly infectious virus was one of his first decisions as director, when he hired Nioca Osbourne, a nurse and an expert in infection control. Long before COVID-19 existed, the Maryland Baptist Aged Home was well prepared with the staff training and protocols to contain any type of infection.
“So we already had procedures in place for dealing with infections,” Rev. DeWitt told the Baltimore Sun. He was quick to credit his entire team, including the nurses and their assistants, the nursing director, Josephine Mungin; the home’s administrator, Johana Walbourn; the medical director, Dr. Narender Bharaj; the janitorial staff, dietician, food staff, social worker and therapists.
When the first reports about COVID-19 became public news, Rev. DeWitt acted swiftly, calling for safety measures that might have seemed like an overreaction at the time, but turned out to be life-saving. The Center for Disease Control and state governments would recommend and require the same restrictions much later — too late for tens of thousands of elderly nursing home residents who lost their lives.
Staff members at the Maryland Baptist Aged Home (Photo: the Maryland Baptist Aged Home via the Baltimore Sun)
“The first thing we did was eliminate all visitations,” Rev. DeWitt told the Baltimore Sun. “So family, volunteers, the church people who visit were all told they could not visit. It wasn’t too popular at first, but they understood it was for the safety of the residents.”
“We didn’t wait for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control or from the Maryland Department of Health or from Baltimore City,” he added. “We did what we thought was prudent at the very beginning of the pandemic.”
How to Stop a Virus
The nursing home executed a model response to COVID-19. By restricting visitation they had limited the potential influx of the virus. Next, they stocked up on personal protective equipment (PPE), and gave masks to all residents. They added more facility cleanings to the schedule and began testing employees for symptoms. Community meals and activities were cancelled, while a newly hired activities coordinator helped keep the residents engaged and entertained amid the new isolation rules.
The Maryland Baptist Aged Home’s exemplary response to COVID-19 demonstrates what nursing homes can aspire to be when the focus is on quality of care instead of profits. Even with a virus as contagious and deadly as COVID-19, it can be mitigated and even avoided completely by a nursing home with solid infection controls, like they had at Maryland Baptist. They also had leadership that acted quickly and prudently, and didn’t wait for public sentiment or the government to dictate how they protected their residents. Interestingly, when the Baltimore Sun asked Rev. DeWitt the moment he knew that COVID-19 would require extreme measures, he said, “Right after President Trump said we had 15 cases and it would soon be down to zero.”
For more on this story, read the entire opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun.
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