Cleveland, OH,
09:18 AM

MetroHealth’s Creates COVID-19 Rehabilitation Unit to Provide Intensive Therapy for Patients

CLEVELAND – A new rehabilitation unit that opened in April at The MetroHealth System has moved to a larger space on its main campus to accommodate a growing number of COVID-19 patients with the virus who need intensive rehabilitation.

The COVID-19 Rehabilitation Unit, which includes a therapy gym, is currently at full capacity with 11 patients in private rooms. Full acute inpatient rehabilitation services are provided by rehabilitation nurses, therapists, physicians and other specialists. The age range of the patients in the COVID-19 rehab unit is from early 50s to over 90.

Rehabilitation units designed specifically to treat COVID-19 patients are currently not the norm, said Victoria Whitehair, MD, Medical Director of Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute and Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Case Western Reserve University.

“Like many other health systems, we have a great rehab unit,” Dr. Whitehair said. “But we also regularly treat very medically complex patients. It wasn’t a big leap for us to consider how to provide rehab services for those patients.”

Intensive rehabilitation is an important part of recovery for some patients with COVID-19 who have had lengthy hospital stays or have spent time on a ventilator. Preliminary discussions surrounding a special unit for COVID-19 patients began in mid-March. The rehab unit opened in early April after the extent of the need was better known and after learning from the experiences of hospitals in Italy and New York, Dr. Whitehair said.

“The key was to have a partnership with the Infectious Disease and Internal Medicine divisions,” she said. Essentially, the rehab unit had to take on some characteristics of an infectious disease unit, accommodating the need for caregivers to wear full personal protective equipment.

The decision to place the COVID-19 Rehabilitation Unit at main campus instead of sending patients to MetroHealth’s inpatient rehabilitation at MetroHealth’s Old Brooklyn Campus (just one mile away) was made to keep patients with the virus separated from other rehab patients, many of whom are at high risk of illness. Having the Internal Medicine COVID team co-manage the rehab unit so that more serious patients could be accepted; and being in closer proximity to the Intensive Care Unit also were factors in the decision.

In addition to the rehabilitation therapies, patients also receive telehealth visits with Rehabilitation Psychologists.

About The MetroHealth System

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers For more information, visit