WMCHealth volunteers returned to work in January to help at the Westchester County Center vaccination site in White Plains; (below)a military personnel member administers a temperature screening. Photos courtesy of WMCHealth
WMCHealth continues to rise to the challenge of protecting the health of our communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As seen in the May 2021 Issue of Advancing Care. By Melissa F. Pheterson
As part of our commitment to public health in the communities we serve, the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) is leading the Hudson Valley’s largest-ever collaboration to distribute COVID-19 vaccine across the region.
Spearheading the efforts of more than 300 hospitals, healthcare organizations and agencies, community organizations and others, WMCHealth serves as the lead for the Hudson Valley Region Hub of New York State’s Regional Vaccine Network, to ensure safe, equitable and efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Network’s efforts have coordinated COVID-19 vaccination doses across Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan counties, including at WMCHealth campuses, the Westchester County Center Mass Vaccination Center in White Plains, other vaccinations sites and pop-up vaccination clinics for communities in need.
“WMCHealth is managing vaccine distribution across the Hudson Valley, in collaboration with New York State and local governments, and our healthcare and community partners,” says Josh Ratner, WMCHealth Executive Vice President and Hub Lead. “We have also established four task-force groups to ensure open communication, transparency, efficiency and equity in this important work.”
One such group is the Health Equity Task Force (HETF), to help ensure health equity is a priority woven into every facet of the COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The HETF provides residents of the Hudson Valley region with access to information, education and resources to ensure robust vaccination across diverse communities as the state continues to ramps up vaccine distribution efforts.
Driven by both the WMCHealth workforce and thousands of dedicated volunteers, the vaccine distribution unfolds in collaboration with the state’s Vaccine Distribution and Implementation Task Force.
Outpouring of Support
As the Regional Hub distributor for the Hudson Valley, WMCHealth has relied on a groundswell of both workforce members and community volunteers to support mass vaccination sites, including the Westchester County Center.
According to Marie Yezzo, Vice President, Professional and Support Services, WMCHealth professionals across all roles and responsibilities have stepped up to contribute their time and expertise. “It’s been a team effort across the network,” Yezzo says. “The WMCHealth staff has been crucial in our response to this historic vaccination effort, whether through vaccine administration, operations, logistics, communication or supply distribution.”
AVP of Ambulatory Services Keri Tone says WMCHealth staffing typically ranges from 70 to 75 professionals per day with a goal of vaccinating at least 2500 patients daily. “We staff 34 PODS daily with a vaccinator and a scribe,” says Tone. “Generally, there are also two pharmacists on site who prepare the vaccines for administration and we always have a clinical lead present to answer questions.”
For help managing the recruitment, on-boarding and scheduling of the community volunteers, Rosemary Byrnes, Senior Director of Patient Experience at WMCHealth, reached out to the nonprofit VolunteerNY! “This was an opportunity to both re-engage our dedicated volunteers and, given the scope of this initiative, launch a recruitment campaign for new volunteers to step forward,” says Byrnes.
As of March, 3,000 people had responded to the call to support work at the County Center, with an average of 60 people per day logging close to 6,000 hours. “Their excitement at this opportunity and their desire to give back to others at this time is extremely heartwarming, a testament to our community,” Byrnes says. “We’re delighted with the outpouring of support.”
To support the 12-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation, volunteers work in shifts to serve critical roles: greeters and “way-finders” to direct people, monitors for the observation room, assistants for registration and data entry and scribes for clinicians giving the shot. Byrnes describes the scene as “all hands on deck.”
“They are the friendly faces greeting and supporting individuals who may need reassurance,” she says. “For many senior citizens, this was one of the first times they’d left their homes since the start of the pandemic. They were nervous about being out in public and filling out paperwork. Our volunteers are so engaging, warm and welcoming that these patients feel at ease and comfortable by the time they receive the vaccine.”
Byrnes says the collaboration between WMCHealth and the community makes the process feel upbeat rather than overwhelming. “There’s a celebratory atmosphere at Westchester County Center. People leave feeling good about the community and how our team is working with the county and New York State. It’s a great way to let them know about the work we do at WMCHealth, and we hope they stay involved going forward.”
Post-COVID Recovery Program at WMCHealth
WMCHealth has a treatment program for those who have ongoing health issues from a COVID-19 infection. The Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program is available on the Westchester Medical Center campus, in Valhalla. To make an appointment, call 1.833.329.0095 or visit covidinfo.wmchealth.org/post-recovery-program.
WMCHealth Coronavirus Digital Resource Center
WMCHealth has launched a digital resource center to provide communities throughout the Hudson Valley with information on vaccination, testing, treatments and the Network’s Post-COVID Recovery Program. This site features continuous updates from WMCHealth, New York State and the federal government, and the Health Equity Task Force program. Visit covidinfo.wmchealth.org for more.
In addition, there’s a directory where users can search an interactive map by location type, such as pharmacy or health clinic, location name and county. Clicking on a location serves up detailed information about the location, who might be eligible to receive a vaccine at that location, and how to register for an appointment. The directory does not represent the actual inventory of each location, only that a location has received a recent distribution, or a distribution sometime in the past.
For more information on vaccine eligibility and mass vaccination sites, including Westchester County Center, please visit: am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or call the New York State Vaccination Hotline, at 1.833.NYS.4VAX (1.833.697.4829).