Ninety-one-year-old Paul Crabtree of Vallejo doesn’t leave home much. He prefers to watch television and pass the time with his 91-year-old roommate Delores Pon.
His age and a number of health issues including dementia, diabetes, heart disease, and emphysema make him especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Unable to get to a vaccine clinic, Kaiser Permanente came to him.
“I think this is great,” said Crabtree as Kaiser Permanente physician Michael Mason, MD, packed up his gear after giving Crabtree his vaccination in the comfort of his mobile home, just off Interstate 80. “I don’t go out, and I don’t want to go out where people have this disease. I stay right here at home.”
The program is designed to vaccinate as quickly as possible those who can’t get to a clinic.
Ninety-year-old Kenneth Touhy of Oakland got vaccinated in his home and is looking forward to visiting a buffet dinner restaurant in Hayward soon. He’s also relieved he can stop worrying about getting COVID-19.
“It definitely will take the edge off,” said Touhy, who received the vaccination from Home Health Nurse Sandra Russ. “And my daughter keeps hounding me to get the shot, so we can go out.”
Kaiser Permanente Northern California nurses and physicians have already vaccinated close to 1,600 patients in their homes, and as supply allows, will continue to vaccinate those with need in the region, said Manasi Kulkarni, a managerial consultant with the organization.
Dr. Mason said he and 3 other physicians have already vaccinated about 400 members at their homes in Napa and Solano counties alone.
“This is part of caring for the sickest and most frail patients to improve their quality of life,” said Dr. Mason. “We will never turn someone away, because that is a person who can get and spread COVID-19.”
The program started in mid-March, said Denise Johnson, RN Kaiser Permanente Northern California director of Care Coordination.
“We care for a significant number of patients in their homes who, for a variety of reasons, can’t leave their homes or go to a vaccination site; they may be on a ventilator, have dementia, or can’t walk,” Johnson said.
Members who are in end-of-life hospice care but who may have months to live and would benefit from the vaccine are being offered it as well.
Giving the COVID-19 vaccination to patients in their homes is part of a bigger strategy to “ensure all Kaiser Permanente members who want it, receive it, regardless of their ability to get to a vaccination site,” Johnson said.
Setting up home vaccinations is a labor-intensive process and involves scheduling, having special coolers on hand for the vaccines, following pharmacy compliance rules, and mapping visits in a similar geographic area for each nurse or physician, said Joanna Mroz, Kaiser Permanente regional director of Geriatrics, Continuing Care and Complex Needs.
“This is really about meeting patients where they are and ensuring homebound patients have the same access to vaccines as others, so they are protected,” Mroz said. “If they have visitors in their homes, or they want to see grandkids or loved ones, we are making that possible.”
Russ said it’s gratifying to know that she is helping people shed their worries and stay safe.
“Patients have been so appreciative that Kaiser is sending doctors and nurses to their homes,” said Russ. “One of my patients started crying when I arrived and said, ‘You don’t know how much this means to me, because this virus is deadly, and I don’t want to die.’”