2.030 vaccine saga

Friday 01/01/2021

In the morning, the standard walk. And an hour of work on the TC dashboard. Then came our fancy holiday lunch, which I did not like at all. There was a generous slab of salmon that was ok, if somewhat dry, but the vegetables were grossly overcooked, and there was a crab cake that was just unpleasant and a salad that was bizarre. I am less and less a fan of our relatively new head chef.

After lunch it was time for an online concert by an artist I’ve been a fan of for years, Marian Call. Just a half hour later, it was time for Rhonda’s open meeting. Rhonda (Channing House CEO) always opens this with a statement of important issues and events, then opens it for questions and discussion. The latter part can run long, and this time I left the meeting after an hour of Q&A, in favor of watching Stanford Women’s Basketball playing Arizona. Arizona had a few points of a lead for the first 3 or 4 minutes of the game. Then Stanford defense clamped down and Stanford opened up a 20-point lead and held it the rest of the way.

Anyway, I am going to turn the rest of this entry over to Rhonda, with a lightly edited version of her description of how we all got vaccinated this week. I am just so proud of the Channing House staff for pulling this off, and it’s a great story. So everything below is from Rhonda’s remarks:

We entered this year with an especially big dose of hope as Channing House was one of the first retirement communities to receive the Covid vaccine earlier this week, on December 28th and 29th. I would like to take some time today to give you a little look at the work behind the scenes that made this happen.

It was early October when Long Term Care Communities were advised to begin the registration process with the CDC in order to receive the vaccine by the end of 2020.

I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes at this. I did not believe it possible that the vaccine would actually be approved by the year end, let alone distributed. Still, Yadira, our Administrator in Training, attended the online meetings to learn more about the plan. She reported that there was much to do and that we needed to be very timely in our submission and our follow up.

Yadira spent nearly a full week attending webinars on the registration process and navigating her way through a very complicated CDC registration system. Once confirmed there, she was able to start the process with Omnicare CVS in early December.

I was still skeptical. So much so that when I was copied on e-mails of Yadira’s correspondence with Omnicare CVS while she was on her scheduled time off in early December, I responded to Yadira and told her that I was sure that this could wait until her return to work. (As an aside, we are regularly encouraging one another to truly disconnect during our time away. Which can be especially difficult during these times.) But, Yadira responded to me that she really felt that it was important to keep this ball rolling.

I am here today to admit that Yadira was right and I was wrong. And, for that I credit her with getting us to the front of the line in the vaccination distribution. This week, we have been receiving e-mails from various trade organizations and regulatory agencies encouraging retirement communities to dedicate a person to this registration effort and its follow-up communication to ensure that they receive the vaccines in a timely manner. I read these e-mails with gratitude for Yadira’s perseverance from October through December to ensure that was happening.

Still, our contacts at Omnicare CVS reported that we would likely have the vaccine available to us in late January or early February. We operated to that expectation until Wednesday, December 16th when Yadira received communication from CVS that we were tentatively scheduled to receive the vaccine on Monday, December 28th. So, we quickly shifted our attention to everything that needed to be in place to make that happen.

In addition, we had received communication from Santa Clara County Public Health that our Lee Center staff could start receiving the vaccine at the Public Health’s clinic on Thursday, December 17th. So, we were also working on getting that communication out to staff and helping them with that registration.

Yadira and Izveth, our Director of Nursing, began receiving many questions from residents about the consent forms. [the forms are really complicated and badly designed — DEC] So, Elizabeth, our Social Worker, was added to the team to help residents prepare for Vaccination Day.

On Saturday, December 19th, we received confirmation that the Omnicare CVS onsite clinic would be on the 28th. And on Thursday, December 24th Yadira received information from Omnicare CVS that they were adding a day to our Vaccination Clinic due to the number of people participating. So, word went out to residents and staff on Christmas Eve, changing the schedule for Vaccination Day of Monday, December 28th to Vaccination Days of Monday, December 28th and Tuesday, December 29th.

Because James [Alvarado] has coordinated previous flu shot clinics, he took on the coordination effort for the Covid Vaccination Clinics. He developed the schedule and coordinated with the resident volunteers to ensure as smooth of a process as possible.

Izveth [nursing director] & her nurses reached out to family members who needed to provide consent on behalf of many of the Lee Center residents.

Angela (Safety Director) and Keyana (Safety Assistant) entered every consent form into an Excel spreadsheet which they then uploaded into the CVS system. This was completed by Saturday, December 26th.

As mentioned before, several of us were able to get our 1st vaccination dose at the Santa Clara County Public Health’s clinic. We used our experience there, to set up the process for Vaccination Day.

So, on Saturday December 26th and Sunday December 27th, Angela and Chris Hoebel, who were the Managers on Duty that weekend, set up the auditorium and the dining room. The auditorium included a registration area and the booths for vaccination administration. The dining room was set up as an observation area. This entire setup mirrored the Public Health setup.

So, we were all set on the morning of Monday, December 28th. We pictured a few bumps to be ironed out in the beginning and, then smooth sailing the rest of the day.

That’s not the way it worked out. We were one of Omnicare CVS’s first clinics. The technicians did not know how to use their software. We noticed that they were entering information from the consent form, which we had already done and uploaded. We were about an hour and 45 minutes in before the first vaccination was administered.

Many residents found themselves at the CVS registration table for 15 minutes as the technicians attempted to get their insurance information accepted. I asked if there was some work-around. They said it was a required step. I asked to speak to a supervisor.

I was given the private number of the supervisor who was clearly harried and frustrated. He was at another clinic which was also not going very well. I pressed him for a solution. But, he was unable to modify the process. So, residents continued to move very slowly past the registration table.

When Izzy called from the Health Center and said that some residents were being denied the vaccine because they had provided their old Medicare cards, not the ones that had been recently issued, steam started coming from my ears and I headed to make some phone calls to reach someone above the onsite supervisor.

I contacted the Public Policy Representative at LeadingAge California, our State Trade Association. He immediately forwarded my complaint to LeadingAge National in Washington DC who then contacted the CVS Headquarters for the Vaccine Roll-Out.

I also contacted California Assisted Living Association, another of our trade associations. Through them, I reached the CVS person in charge of the vaccination distribution in California.

My complaint was that a valid Medicare card is not a required condition to receive the vaccine in a congregate setting. And, in any other life-saving procedure, the service is provided first and figuring out the insurance is secondary. So, it is incomprehensible how this issue with verifying insurance was going to potentially jeopardize the ability for everyone here to be vaccinated. We were running out of time. And, we had already been told that they would be unable to extend the clinic if they could not get everyone vaccinated within the 2 days we had.

In addition, it was indefensible to deny the vaccination to a resident because we did not have their current Medicare card available.

By the end of Monday, we ended up with the attention of the CEO of Omnicare CVS and an official at the CDC.

So, on Tuesday, the onsite supervisor advised us that they would no longer have to re-enter the data we had already entered. And, that they would be using social security numbers for any resident for whom they could not verify insurance. The result was that on the first day, approximately 100 people were vaccinated. On the second day, over 200 people were vaccinated. Everyone who wanted to be vaccinated, was vaccinated.

As James said the other day, this event was the true reflection of a team effort. In addition to the staff already mentioned, we had AJ (from Fitness & Wellness) checking people in at the lobby, Luis (from the Front Desk) admitting people to the auditorium, Geeta (from Accounting) registering people on Monday, Victoria (from Housekeeping) and Elizabeth (Social Worker) registering people on Tuesday. Ofelia (from Marketing) checking people in to the Observation Area. Our nurses, including Valentyna, Marjorie, and Jinalyn taking shifts to monitor the Observation area. Ethan (at the Front Desk) copying the completed consent forms before Omnicare CVS left at the end of each day.

So, a special thanks to everyone who made this happen. Again, recognition that I am certain that it was Yadira’s dedication and Izveth’s support that brought Channing House to the front of the line. I also want to recognize the prompt advocacy efforts of LeadingAge and California Assisted Living Association. It was through their contacts that we were able to ensure that everyone who had signed up to be vaccinated, was vaccinated.

I also wanted to share with you that since the article in the Palo Alto Weekly, which ran on December 25th, about the Channing House Vaccination Clinic, we have been receiving many phone calls and e-mails, including, the general public, wanting access to our Clinics; the Vi [another retirement home] asking for information on how we were able to register for the clinics; Palo Alto Medical Foundation asking for our assistance in getting some of their caregivers vaccinated; and more.

It is just one more reminder that what happened here on the 28th and 29th is pretty special. We were all honored to be part of this event.

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