'Pandemic Pathway' Dedicated At Liberty Commons

By: Tim Wood

Topics: COVID-19

Grace Noferi, president of the Liberty Commons Residents' Council, cuts the ribbon on a new paved walkway, flanked by activities director Steve Franco and Select Board Chair Shareen Davis. JUSTIN ALEX PHOTO

NORTH CHATHAM – When the pandemic mandated that Liberty Commons Nursing Home lock all its doors in order to funnel all staff and visitors through the front entrance, where they were screened for symptoms, people began walking from the lower parking lot up a hill to the front door. In normal times, they'd use other, more conveniently located entrances.

“It was fine all summer,” Broad Reach President and CEO Bill Bogdanovich said of the path worn into the lawn by the foot traffic. “But it didn't seem to be the best thing to have people traipsing through during bad weather.”

The best practical solution was a new paved sidewalk. When Bogdanovich began looking into it, he found that because of its location on a hill, the safest and most efficacious thing to do would be to add heat to the walkway.

“Nobody should ever fall on it,” he commented.

Last Wednesday the new walkway was formally “commissioned” during a ceremony that also celebrated the substantial completion of vaccinations among staff and residents, the opening of the facility to visitors once again, and the reopening of the inpatient rehabilitation program.

The walkway, Bogdanovich said, is at least one positive thing to come out of the pandemic.

“It's another one of those things that we never would have thought would come of it,” he said.

Liberty Commons took stringent steps to protect its staff and residents during the pandemic, sponsoring testing at the North Chatham facility and implementing infection control practices. Only five residents and a few staff members tested positive through November.

But the winter spike saw an increase in cases; the facility's inpatient sub acute program was suspended and the unit where it had been located became a dedicated COVID-19 treatment space, Bogdanovich said. More than 80 residents eventually recovered from the infection, but more than a dozen were lost. The inpatient program reopened in February. About 83 percent of the residents and staff have been vaccinated, and about 20 new patients have been admitted. They received their first shots last week and will get the second vaccine in two weeks.

At the dedication ceremony, Select Board Chair Shareen Davis said the path was symbolic of the uncharted pathways the nursing home's staff, and others, have had to navigate during the COVID-19 crisis. “The fortitude, commitment and sacrifice they experienced in caring for the residents of Liberty Commons is duly memorialized in the pathway,” she said.

Bogdanovich lauded the facility's staff for their dedication in keeping the “bones” of Liberty Commons strong during the crisis.

“What's gone well, even during these impossibly tough times, went well because the bones are so good,” he said during the ceremony. “When there's a challenge, they don't break. When they need to be made stronger, well, we know we have the best rehab department anywhere.”

The front doors will likely remain the only entrance to the facility for some time, Bogdanovich said later; screening of visitors and staff will probably continue for some time. In the coming weeks railings and lights will be added to the new walkway, and potted rose bushes, placed at the front entrance courtyard when it became the only way in, will be planted along the path.

“This gives a really good home for them,” Bogdanovich said.