The San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
The San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

At the Jewish senior home I run, caring for Covid patients is our ethical responsibility

On April 10, 2020, San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living admitted its first post-acute Covid-19 patient to its dedicated unit after discharge from the hospital. This patient was in need of recuperation and rehabilitation, just like everyone else who seeks our services for post-acute skilled nursing care. The only difference was that this patient was also recovering from Covid-19. This admit raised many eyebrows, as well as concerns from a few family members of our existing residents and patients.

However, and in spite of pressures to the contrary, SFCJL staff stepped up to assist our community to stay ahead of a possible surge that cratered health care systems in other cities. We created a dedicated unit with upwards of 30 private rooms, each with a private bathroom and shower, on an entirely dedicated floor in one of the four buildings on our 9-acre campus. To the best of our knowledge, we were the very first such Covid-19 unit authorized by the California Department of Public Health. All those admitted to this unit remain on isolation precautions and are cared for by a dedicated team of specifically trained staff, who only work with these patients, to reduce the exposure risk to everyone else on our campus.

While skilled nursing facilities were initially ordered by the CDPH to accept Covid-19 patients, SFCJL staff embraced this situation by considering it more than a mandated requirement, but also their ethical obligation. Firstly, this order is meant to keep busy hospital emergency rooms and med/surg units ready to receive patients in critical conditions. By supporting Covid-19 patients who no longer need acute hospital levels of care, we are doing our part to support our hospital partners, freeing their clinical staff and other hospital resources, to care for patients who are in need of intensive/higher levels of care. The services that we are being required to provide are no different from what we do now. We rehabilitate these Covid-19 patients so that they can then get back to their families and their lives.

Secondly, and arguably most importantly, caring for our elderly is at the very core of our century-and-a-half mission. Covid-19 patients in need of care are our family members … they are our friends … and they are a part of our community. We will not turn them away because of the fear of a few who do not share our ethical responsibility.

While many in the media, including from this paper, have endeavored to portray nursing homes as the “pariah” of the health care industry, my staff are singularly focused on giving care. Care to our Covid-19 patients is provided in consultation with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, while taking every precaution in doing so. I hope that rather than giving in to rumor or some misguided information propagated by those with their own agendas, that you’ll join us by putting your energies behind “chesed,” or providing acts of lovingkindness, when so many, here and around the world, are in desperate need.

Daniel R. Ruth
Daniel R. Ruth

Daniel R. Ruth is president and CEO of the Jewish Senior Living Group.