West Suburban Medical Center Develops Illinois’ First Sub-Acute Rehabilitation COVID-19 Unit

West Suburban staff

COVID-19 has taught all of us a valuable lesson about adaptability and ingenuity. As healthcare providers in this uncertain time, we have had to develop new ways to safely and quickly meet the needs of our community. This has required the establishment of new protocols and programs to treat our patients and to protect our staff.

West Suburban Medical Center’s Sub-Acute Rehabilitation (SAR) unit exemplifies this spirit of adaptability and ingenuity through the development of the first SAR COVID 19+ unit in Illinois.

With the rapid uptick of COVID-19 positive cases across the nation, and no standard of care for safely providing therapy for these patients, Chief Operating Officer Luke Therasri set the wheels in motion to address this critical concern. He and Director of Rehabilitation Services, Meghan Bisping, PT, DPT, collaborated with Rona Bucal, RN-BC, LNHA, Director, Skilled Nursing Unit, and Jason Gruss, MD, Medical Director, Sub-Acute Rehabilitation to develop a new SAR COVID unit, all within a few days’ time.

Key to the establishment of the new unit was developing a protocol for accepting and treating COVID patients. With an innovative new protocol in place, the team converted a portion of the hospital’s SAR unit into a COVID unit, where these patients could receive the critical occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology services needed to successfully recover. The COVID unit opened April 3, with the admission of its first patient. The unit is currently treating 19 COVID-positive patients, but as word of the unprecedented program spreads, this number is expected to grow substantially.

At first the SAR COVID unit was populated only by patients from internal referrals made within the hospital. A second team quickly came together to help spread the word about the program. By April 6, Dr. Gruss, Rona, and Meghan created a fax blast about the SAR COVID unit to be sent to all of the facilities that refer to West Sub’s SAR. Director of Case Management, Colleen Morley Wines also reached out to a broad network of case managers and social workers across the state to spread the word. Finally, Chief Strategy Officer William “BJ” Krech and Director of Business Development, Brenda Routson, contacted their network of acute facilities.

“Our strategy was to educate and connect the SAR to the other acute facilities we already work with. We basically leveraged existing relationships to get the ball rolling,” stated Brenda. “Meghan and Colleen were extremely helpful in our outreach efforts. Colleen has an extensive network of case managers throughout the state, and as far as Indiana.”

West Sub SAR therapists bravely spend one to two hours of time in close proximity to COVID patients in order to provide the therapy they need to be discharged to further post-acute services and the home environment. They have excelled in navigating the challenges of providing in-room therapy to maintain necessary patient isolation precautions required for COVID-19.

“We have an amazing group of therapists who are dedicated to caring for all patients, no matter what their needs. Our therapists are now consulted on every patient admitted to the hospital that tests positive or is suspected COVID-positive, to assess their functional mobility. This assessment ensures safe and timely discharge in addition to providing the initial orientation to our participatory proning program which helps prevent patients from needing a ventilator,” stated Meghan.

The SAR unit’s proning program involves rotating patients on their sides and teaching them to sleep on their stomachs to allow their lungs to expand and stay oxygenated, helping them breathe better and prevent needing a ventilator. Other therapies help deal with lingering cognitive impairments from COVID-19, which are only beginning to be understood and researched.

We recognize the following therapists for their extraordinary work on the front line:

  • Robert Ahlgren, PTA
  • Gina A Biasiello, PT
  • Sarah S Cali, OT
  • Daniel Capparelli, PT
  • Amy Chambers, SLP
  • Elizabeth Chavez, COTA
  • Ben Close, PT
  • Harriet M Coles, PT
  • Brian Ervin, PT
  • Tomas Estacio, PT
  • Crystal J Guyton, OT
  • Judyta Hankus, PT
  • Jean Hoffman, PTA
  • Nighty N Joseph, PTA
  • Susan Letendre, OT
  • Stephanie A Marzullo, PT
  • Jennifer McCarron, SLP
  • James C Milder, PT
  • Andria Ormsby, OT
  • Marguerite G Simmons, PTA
  • Gregory Tomita, OT
  • Julie S Wakeman, COTA
  • Krandall R Williams, SLP

“I would also like to recognize our nursing staff from a therapy standpoint because not only are they exposed to these patients at close proximity for lengthy periods of time, but they have also been key to assisting the therapists in the provision of therapy services. They have provided that second or third set of hands we have needed. Without the nurses and PCTs on SAR, we would not be able to run a successful unit. Kudos to Rona and her team of amazing nurses and PCTs,” said Meghan.

“Sub-Acute Rehab Nurses and PCTs continue to deliver excellent care amid the COVID-19 outbreak. It is a team effort where they work closely together with PT/OT therapists, social workers, the Medical Director and Director of Rehab services to support the care of patient and families. I salute my staff for continuing to give their best,” stated Rona.

Thank you to each and every one of these valuable members of the SAR nursing care team who continue to make a difference on the front line:

  • Allan Butardo, PCT
  • Audrey Browder, RN
  • Samantha Cid, RN
  • Rustico Campos, RN
  • Mary Chyba, RN
  • Bianca Cortez, RN
  • Nestor Feliciano, RN
  • William Fischer, RN
  • Tiffany Freeman, RN
  • Moses Angelo Gallardo, RN
  • Soledad Leyva, RN
  • Lisa Love, PCT
  • Domagala Malgorzta, PCT
  • Evelin Maddela, RN
  • Bethzaida Medina, RN
  • Christina Munoz, PCT
  • Yaniz Pelayo, RN
  • Mary Eileen Reyes, RN
  • Esmyraluna Samuelian, RN
  • Toronda Stewart, PCT
  • Caitlyn Taylor, PCT
  • Sarina Threets, RN
  • Arti Thakar, RN
  • Eufronia Valencia, RN
  • Oscar Yba, RN
  • Krystyna Zubek, RN