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Photo courtesy of Annmarie Ramos
The staff members outside of Holliswood Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Hollis, where 120 residents have recovered from COVID-19.

When Annmarie Ramos was tasked with the challenge of leading over 250 staff members amid the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holliswood Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Hollis, she made sure everyone received adequate supplies and proper training to care for patients vulnerable to the virus. 

“It was important that the staff, residents and family members knew directly what [the virus] was and were given accurate information by the CDC and DOH,” said Ramos, director of the nursing home. “As every phase went by, there were another set of challenges and constantly staying updated making sure that things were taken care of.”

The 314-bed facility, located at 195-44 Woodfull Ave., has had approximately 60 deaths related to COVID-19. All residents and employees were tested for the virus, whether they were asymptomatic or symptomatic, according to Ramos, who started working at the center two-and-a-half months ago, before the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the city.

Based upon the different test results, the center utilized the information to further cohort residents inside the building, Ramos said. Their goal was to make sure that they were fighting COVID head on. 

Additionally, the center had also accepted over 20 recovering COVID-19 patients that were discharged from the hospital under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order. On May 10, Cuomo reversed the directive, which had been intended to help free up hospital beds for the sickest patients as cases surged. 

So far, the center is witnessing a decline in the number of cases; more than 120 residents have recovered from the virus, according to Ramos. 

“Our residents are doing fairly well. We’ve had a number of residents that have recovered from COVID, and residents that thankfully were never infected or became COVID positive, which is great because it shows that all of the education and in-servicing worked.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Ramos conducted a training session with staff members in every department answering questions and concerns about the virus, as well as discussing the new guidelines and regulations. 

For example, Ramos said, they had learned how to properly put on and take off the personal protective equipment (PPE), which was a big change for everyone at the center. 

“We did follow the extended wear because there were shortages and we were lucky to have PPE to be utilized,” Ramos said. “Our facility and corporation made sure we had adequate supplies.” 

For Ramos, it was highly important for her to maintain her composure while staying alert on the latest developments of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“If I looked like I was frazzled or wasn’t in control … it would feed off to the staff,” Ramos said. “I’d wonder if anything changed since I went to sleep or will I have another email to take care of something else. What’s the new thing and how are we going to get it done within the time frame?” 

As for communication with family members, the center has encouraged the families to call to speak with their loved ones through video chatting and robo calls. 

Overall, Ramos said, they’re in support of testing and making sure everyone is safe, and communicating with the governor and the CDC on decision-making protocols. 

“You know, let’s involve the parties and say, ‘Hey guys, how are you going to do this and is it feasible?’” Ramos said. “As the numbers are going down and things are in place, we would love to be involved asking our opinions, such as having someone from the nursing home tell them what we’re experiencing in-house so that it’s not just statistics and numbers.”

Ramos added, “The number of resident deaths is public, however, the number of recovered patients isn’t public knowledge. It’s just for them to get a fair look at everything that’s going on and to get the information from within.” 

According to Ramos, they’re doing everything they can for the residents who have become extended family members. 

“I think it’s important for the outside community to understand that we develop longterm relationships with these residents, and when they’re sick it affects us as well, and when they pass on, it’s definitely a void that’s left with us that’s not easily filled,” Ramos said.

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