Staff from Salem Hospital and North Shore Physicians Group, as well as others in the Mass General Brigham system, worked together to develop strategic approaches to combating COVID-19 as it began to impact residents of Massachusetts. It became clear in the spring of 2020 that some communities in Massachusetts were disproportionately impacted by the spread of the virus. To offset the impact to these communities, Salem Hospital partnered with local community health centers and city officials to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 virus in the hardest-hit areas.
The team is continuing efforts to address COVID-19 with an equitable and community-based commitment. We've worked to ensure that we meet the needs of diverse and multilingual populations in every interaction between our healthcare staff and patients, and that the critical social needs of our communities are addressed.
As part of the system-wide COVID-19 Community Health Equity Strategy, care kits were assembled and distributed to vulnerable communities throughout the region. Care kits included masks, hand sanitizer, soap and basic educational materials in multiple languages, as well as information on staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and how to access food services. More than 48,000 care kits have been distributed to Lynn residents alone.
COVID-19 testing sites were set up and made available to residents of particular communities and neighborhoods where COVID-19 rates were higher. During the summer and fall of 2020, North Shore Physicians Group, Salem Hospital, Lynn Community Health Center and the City of Lynn offered several local events where COVID-19 testing, information, care kits, and food were available to residents of Lynn, Salem and Peabody. Testing was available regardless of immigration status, and patients did not need to have health insurance to be tested.
Spanish Language Care Group
Pictured: Mimi Neuman, M.D. and Maria Betancourt, M.D.
To improve communication and better serve patients and their families, we recently launched a Spanish Language Care Group (SLCG) at Salem Hospital. Staffed by volunteer Spanish-speaking providers who are certified as Qualified Bilingual Staff, the group's goal is to apply their linguistic and cultural knowledge/awareness to support frontline caregivers and their patients in a variety of ways, including helping to communicate care and discharge plans and facilitating family meetings.
The volunteers from the program are available to join physicians during rounds, especially for those difficult conversations with COVID-19 patients and their families, and offer support and comfort. The group supplements the essential work of the Interpreter Services department.