Margaret Tietz is a kosher-certified 200-bed nursing and rehabilitation center in Jamaica Hills, Queens. Leading with commitment to its residents, the staff continues to demonstrate compassionate and customized care to all since 1971. Each day, the facility administrators set out to bring quality programming and services in a home-style atmosphere. With the pandemic raging, the facility quarantined and has slowly begun to emerge as vaccinations became readily available.
The Queens Jewish Link spoke with the site’s administrator, Kwang Lee, to delve into the process. We thank Linda Spiegel, Margaret Tietz’s Director of Public Affairs, for giving us this opportunity.
QJL: How was Margaret Tietz able to start vaccination?
Kwang Lee: Following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Margaret Tietz was given the opportunity to begin inoculating its residents. Walgreens Pharmacy offered a partnership that has blossomed to over 60 percent of its residents and staff receiving the Pfizer vaccine. The pharmacy developed a timetable to bring in pharmacists and technicians.
QJL: So, the Walgreens staff just wheeled in the vaccines and began?
KL: Well, yes. They had dry ice containers that housed the vaccines, and in three sessions we managed to get 60 percent of our facility protected. Those who received the first dose, during the first session, then received the second dose three weeks later, while a new batch of residents and staff got their first injection. Residents got the shots in the rooms.
QJL: How was it to have a staff unaccustomed with the facility joining with your team?
KL: The Walgreens workers acted with utmost professionalism. There was much paperwork, including written consent and authorization required, and their staff worked succinctly with ours to gather the information necessary to share with governmental partners.
QJL: How were residents’ families involved?
KL: The family members were directly involved in this consent process. Since the COVID restrictions barred much interaction, we arranged emails for those with access to print, and fax or mail options for others.
QJL: Speaking of family, how have your residents been in communication with their loved ones over the past year?
KL: We have acquired a vast number of electronic devices, specifically iPads, for family members and residents to stay in touch. We used to think that telemedicine was the only means for digital communication, but interactions like FaceTiming a loved one are now here to stay and are part of regular contact for residents to stay out of the dark and in touch with the outside world.
QJL: How have residents reacted to getting the vaccine?
KL: We recently held a resident council meeting where we heard from an 87-year-old resident who explained, “I am more secure knowing that I have been vaccinated.” The residents understand that not being vaccinated can put others at risk – and this is from an 87-year-old woman.
Writer’s note: Mr. Lee could not stress enough how readers should take this lesson to heart and, in his own words, “listen and embrace” to learn from the wisdom of our elders that science matters and does exist.
QJL: There has been much debate on which vaccine one should take. Margaret Tietz gave Pfizer’s formula. How has your staff responded?
KL: The general consensus at our facility is that it does not matter which vaccine you get, just make sure to do what feels best for you as options become available. The real concern should not be which one you get, but when you go to get the shots. In some cases, our staff and some residents do have a degree of skepticism, but we are seeing more and more becoming comfortable getting inoculated.
QJL: Why might this change have occurred?
KL: The reality is ultimately unknown, but the science certainly outweighs the manufacturers’ listed side effects. Amongst our staff, we still see a measure of challenge, but as everyone stays healthy, more people are encouraged to get vaccinated.
QJL: Sixty percent is a high success rate if you ask me. What is left to be done?
KL: Sixty is not 100. We commend our families for working with our residents to encourage participation, and we are hopeful that in the next session more residents will sign up to be vaccinated, as this is the eventual path back to normalcy.
QJL: On the topic of a routine, what else has changed at Margaret Tietz?
KL: We are open for visitations! Seeing residents share moments with loved ones in person is a special accomplishment for us to maintain a normal living style. Holiday celebrations have returned in small groups of ten people, and limited services have once again returned in the shul. We take each change one day at a time as normal sets back in, and residents feel a renewed sense of living full lives.
QJL: Does vaccinating mean no more COVID testing?
KL: No, COVID testing is here to stay for a bit. Following the Department of Health, we maintain regular on-site rapid testing. This goes for visitors, as well; residents are tested weekly and staff biweekly.
QJL: Can you share a bit more about visitations?
KL: The compassionate thing to do is go through a screening process that includes testing. Outside of compassionate care, visitations take place in our large activity hall. This both helps with efficiency and to maintain infection control protocols. Visits occur throughout the week from 10:30 a.m. till 2:30 p.m.
QJL: Wow! It is incredible that we have finally come to this date. We wish Margaret Tietz, its residents, staff, and families many more years of health and prosperity.