Interview with Nesa Joseph – February 3, 2021

Regulation | February 03, 2021 | by Jill Schumann

Nesa Joseph, President and CEO of LeadingAge member Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis, joined the LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Call on February 3, 2021 to talk about vaccine clinics.

Nesa Joseph, President and CEO of LeadingAge member Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis, joined the LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Call on February 3, 2021 to talk about vaccine clinics. He answered questions from Ruth Katz and from callers.

The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA GSL) is a 110 year-old organization that provides hospice, community-based advanced illness management (palliative care), vaccination services (20-30K flu shots each year), private duty care, and a senior visitation program.

Q: What has been your COVID experience over the past year?

A: The VNAGSL Patient Care Services Committee of the Board met on March 11 to finalize their pandemic preparedness policies. Just hours later, the WHO declared the pandemic. VNA has continued to follow those policies. Six staff members have contracted COVID-19, but not through their work. In October 2020, VNAGSL applied through the state to be a COVID-19 vaccinator to position for the release of a vaccine and to utilize their experience with vaccinations.

Q: It seems like one of the issues with getting vaccines into arms is a lack of vaccinators, so tell us more about your vaccination program.

A: Four weeks ago, the Missouri Department of Health reached out to ask if we would be COVID-19 vaccinators. VNAGSL replied “absolutely, yes” and asked whether two other VNAs with whom we collaborate closely might also be involved. The Department of Health agreed. The first priority was vaccinating employees of home health and hospice agencies (status 1A in Missouri).

Q: What were the important steps in the process?

A: Here is the way it worked for VNAGSL:

  • The state Health Department appreciated the importance of vaccinating healthcare workers and was willing to partner.
  • We were an organization that was already approved by the state to be a vaccinator. Our other VNA partners needed to be approved as vaccinators, and the Department of Health helped that to happen quickly.
  • We needed to actually get the vaccines flowing, and the state, the three VNAs and another hospice organization met together to put the logistics in place.
  • VNAGSL helped with forms, logistics, etc. since we were experienced vaccinators.
  • The Pfizer vaccines arrived in temperature -controlled boxes with GPS and temperature sensors, so we did not need to have the extreme cold storage.
  • We have completed 1,500 vaccines and are waiting for the next batch of vaccines.

Q: So far, you have been vaccinating healthcare workers. Are you hoping to put vaccines in the arms of clients?

A: Missouri is still vaccinating healthcare workers but will soon be opening up vaccinations to older adults in the community. We will be doing vaccinations at specific sites for older adults when the state is ready. We were asked by Ascension: Healthcare, headquartered in St. Louis to vaccinate 500 of their employees, and we will when we receive vaccine. We currently have a waiting list of 2,000 people.

Q: If other home health organizations wanted to be vaccinators, what advice would you offer?

A: There were three key things that worked for us:

  • Build partnerships with state officials – they are important partners
  • Become a state-approved vaccinator
  • Put aside competitiveness to build broad partnerships and trust

Q: Are you aware of other VNAs outside of Missouri doing what you have done?

A: I am not aware of any, but I have been so focused on Missouri I simply don’t know.

Q: A housing member calling in asked whether they might partner with the VNA for vaccinations.

A: Definitely yes! The best way to reach out for community clinics in Missouri would be to give Nesa a call at 313-918-7171 – ask operator for him. They can review where the state is in vaccinating which populations, vaccine supply, etc.

Q: Are you hoping to continue vaccinating in an ongoing way?

A: Yes, if we can do that on a regular and consistent basis.