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Regional Delegation Leans on State Central Offices Over Tewksbury Hospital Issues

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Following a reemergence in calls regarding reported issues at the Tewksbury State Hospital from staff, patients, and family the greater Tewksbury regional legislative delegation delivered an official letter to Department of Public Health and Department of Mental Health authorities, asking the state to provide greater assistance in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak in the facility.

Focusing on several demands and proposed and solutions the letter signals an escalation regarding concerns reported from Tewksbury and other state facility staff, concerns previously brought up on conference calls and other direct communications with senior officials.

"Early on the issues reported were pretty-straightforward, and mirrored the issues seen at comparable facilities. Protective equipment shortages were a problem as global supply struggled to keep up, and thankfully the UAMTF Army task force was able to provide staffing assistance to avoid staff shortages that were much more severe elsewhere. The central offices addressed these early issues fairly well as we called early on in the outbreak, but recently several topics have consistently been reported by these individuals familiar to the situation." Said Representative David Robertson of Tewksbury and Wilmington. "We can't keep having these carousel conversations on the same issues, so we had no choice but to codify our concerns in writing and reiterate our willingness to help."

As the outbreak at Tewksbury Hospital was not dissimilar to outbreaks seen at other facilities, the delegation hoped to lend assistance through hard lessons learned before. Representatives Robertson and Ken Gordon, as well as Senator Bruce Tarr were previously able to assist in sourcing and procuring Personal Protective Equipment, scouting for qualified supplemental staff, in pressuring FEMA for fulfilling state requests during AdviniaCare of Wilmington's outbreak in late March. Many of the other legislators provided similar assistance or preparing for COVID-related crises, with Representative Nguyen of Andover and Tewksbury helping to locate 1,000 masks for nursing homes and fire stations early on. Representative Garry, a Democrat cosigner from Dracut, was able to source additional masks through a personal network. Representative Golden and Mom, both Democrats of Lowell, supported hospital efforts in Lowell as regional hospitals rapidly expanded ICU capability before adding their respective names to the letter of concern.

The letter includes five beginning solutions such as mandated publishing of patient infection levels, additional supply of PPE stockpiles, and reallocation of qualified DPH/DMH staff from other non-patient facilities to provide patient care. In addition, it calls for a review and implementation of policies that have seen success on each campus, creating a "best practices" standard for all campuses to abide, and also calls for review and implementation of testing standards for staff who were quarantined.

"Everyone at that hospital is trying to do their best, but this is like sending soldiers to war without bullets. We want to offer our direct help, use skills we learned from addressing similar outbreaks elsewhere, and know that once we solve these issues that we won't be hearing the same problems occur two weeks later. We can't change the past, and state and national experts are saying to expect a second potential wave, so we look to the future. We need to be prepared, and we need to support our local staff and administration who are directly caring for these patients. We aren't just making demands here, we're offering a hand as well" said Robertson.
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