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

The MetroHealth System, Cuyahoga County’s public health system, is honoring its commitment to create a healthier community by building a new hospital on its main campus in Cleveland. The building and the 25 acres of green space around it are catalyzing the revitalization of MetroHealth’s West Side neighborhood.

MetroHealth broke ground on its new hospital in 2019. The project is being financed with nearly $1 billion the system borrowed on its own credit after dramatically improving its finances. In the past five years, MetroHealth’s operating revenue has increased by 40% and its number of employees by 21%. Today, its staff of 8,000 provides care at MetroHealth’s four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. In the past year, MetroHealth has served 300,000 patients at more than 1.4 million visits in its hospitals and health centers, 75% of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

The health system is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.

As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to teaching and research. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses a Cleveland Metropolitan School District high school of science and health.

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