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Concerns raised to state officials by Sharon residents

SHARON — Responding to Sharon residents’ concerns about plans to use Sharon Health Care Center as a recovery facility for patients recovering from COVID-19, a Zoom video conference was held as part of the Tuesday, April 14, meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

State Rep. Maria Horn (D-64) invited state officials to participate in the conference. The forum can be seen on the Robin Hood Radio Vimeo channel on the internet (look for “Sharon Board of Selectmen 4-14-2020” at www.vimeo.com/robinhoodradiotv).

The four officials clarified what Jonathan Harrison,  senior advisor to Gov. Ned Lamont, termed “a complex situation” as medical facilities try to follow the governor’s executive order relating to nursing homes and a COVID “surge” plan.

“We have tried to fashion solutions for the greater good,” Harrison said.

“Our role is to take the state’s plan and be sure that the plan gets communicated.” 

The peak for new COVID-positive diagnoses in Connecticut was expected to be reached during that week, within five days of the April 14 meeting. After that, the numbers were expected to level off and decrease.

Describing the situation as “very fluid,” Horn noted that,  “Sharon is a health-care mecca in northwest Connecticut,” with Sharon Hospital (which is owned by Nuvance) and Sharon Health Care Center (which is across the street from the hospital and is owned by Athena Health Care Systems).

Harrison emphasized the importance of discharging recuperating patients to a care facility in order to open hospital bed space for more critical cases. Nursing homes become an essential component in that process.

“We need the hospital beds,” Harrison said repeatedly, for the patients who need intensive care.

Barbara Cass, representing the state Department of Public Health, spoke of the medical surge plan and the need to create COVID recovery sites. 

“This is a very fluid and ever-changing environment,” she said, reiterating Horn’s comments. Nursing homes are an essential element in the plan.

Cass said that traditional nursing homes would be able to welcome back patients who have achieved two negative test results within 24 hours. 

Individuals who had been admitted to a hospital for a non-COVID issue would need one negative test result to return to their nursing home.  

A facility designated as a COVID recuperation site would need to transfer COVID negative patients to another facility.

Sharon Health Care Center, in serving as a COVID recovery facility, would care for patients who are finishing the recuperation process.

Sharon residents who tuned in to the Zoom meeting expressed concern that elderly patients accustomed to their facility’s environment would suffer from being moved to a different location.

Sharon First Selectman Brent Colley also commented that the populations of area towns are of significantly advanced age and he feared endangering their well-being as they are the vulnerable group for the virus.

Selectman Dale Jones inquired why a vacant nursing facility in Torrington, mentioned as an alternate site for recuperation, would not be the logical choice. Cass indicated that the Torrington facility is not seen as an alternative to Sharon  Health Care Center. Both will be needed. 

Horn indicated that she is “keenly aware” of the issues surrounding the effects of the various options.

Comments and questions can be directed to the Sharon selectmen’s office to be passed along to appropriate officials.

Colley said, “All we can do is to prepare for the future. Stay inside.”

He said that the town’s team of volunteers remains ready to help get food and do other essential errands for people who are at risk and can’t safely leave their homes.

Selectman Casey Flanagan said that residents need to hunker down and keep doing what they have been doing for the past month. He added that Sawyer Thornton, director of the Sharon Healthcare Center, and her staff are ready for whatever comes.

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