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San Juan Regional Medical Center leads way in COVID-19 home health treatment

Program is being replicated across New Mexico
Marcus Appleton, RN/clinical educator, prepares to administer a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

San Juan Regional Medical Center is using a program called COVID to Home to provide adequate care to COVID-19 patients who are either discharged from the hospital and will go into self-isolation, or didn’t require hospitalization to begin with.

The program, according to San Juan Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Laura Werbner, is being replicated across the state.

Nurse practitioner Rebekah French, who started the program at SJRMC, said COVID to Home is a good support and validating program.

“We have a wide range of people, some are barely sick to others really sick who we are intervening and sending to the hospital,” French said. “It helps being able to provide some kind of comfort to let them know that they are not alone.”

The clinic is actually a telemedicine clinic where providers can closely monitor patients in the program and coordinate increased care if needed. The protocols are based on a model from Vanderbilt University’s care model.

Werbner said the program has had much success and has been able to prevent many patients from needing to go to the hospital.

“With COVID cases up across the state, health care leaders realized they would need to do more to keep patients out of the hospital when possible,” Werbner said.

That was when the state’s Medical Advisory Team heard about the success of the COVID to Home clinic – which has been able to help almost 900 patients since April – from SJRMC clinic director Shaleen Brown. Werbner said Brown went to help Gallup Public Health as well as the Las Cruces Medical Resident program to implement the COVID to Home clinic program.

“For the state to look at our program and say, ‘They’ve got it figured out,’ is incredible,” Brown said. “This program has helped so many patients. ... We have been able to keep many patients at home.”

French said the patients in the COVID to Home clinic are grateful to have a provider check on them. French was even able to coordinate with an oxygen company to order and administer oxygen for one of her patients who needed it and kept that person out of the hospital.

“The goal is to keep as many patients at home as we can safely,” French said. “Not everyone is needing to be admitted, so there is a good majority of people who can stay at home, but we can closely monitor them and prevent something from becoming an emergency and can get them to a hospital in a timely manner.”

The next step in the program is a pilot program for paramedic in-person visits at homes to check on patients to see if there are any rising concerns, and if so, they can be transferred to the hospital. French encouraged people who feel like they need to go to the hospital to go and also urged others to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“There really are first defenses against COVID,” French said. “Our community is our first defense, and we need help trying to prevent the spread of COVID.”


An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect first name for San Juan Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Laura Werbner.