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New COVID unit with windows in Hagerstown lets patients and families interact

In the spring, Meritus Health invested in a new wing to house patients with emerging diseases. The 20-bed unit is open and fully occupied.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — One of the tragedies of this pandemic is that it keeps families apart while a loved one is sick in the hospital with COVID-19. Meritus Health built a new ground-level facility in Hagerstown to address that. The permanent 20-bed unit is lined with big windows so that COVID patients can see family and friends as they recover. 

According to Mertius CEO Maulik Joshi, the negative pressure facility opened on Aug. 26 and has been full since. 

"While other hospitals were building temporary facilities during this time, we built a permanent addition," Joshi said. "So this is 20 new beds for our 300-bed hospital."

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Meritus Health infection containment unit wing

Meritus Health is the main healthcare provider for 150,000 in the Hagerstown community. On March 21, when there were 190 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland Dr. Joshi took a decisive step.

"We wanted to be ready for the second and third surge, so we filed for an emergency certificate of need in Maryland to build this regional infection containment unit," he said. "We got the approval on March 21. Eight days later, we broke ground. Four months later, 120 days later, we have patients in there."

The $12.5 million infection containment wing is a negative pressure space that is similar in capabilities to an ICU, according to Dr. Joshi.   

"It can have ventilators and it's designed for people to have emerging diseases," he explained.

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Meritus Health infection containment unit

One of those people is Donna Shoop, an operating room tech that has worked with Meritus for 42 years. When she tested positive for COVID-19, Shoop was placed in the new infection containment unit, right next to a window adorned with signs of love from her co-workers. A window to the outside world where her daughter Amy could come visit her.

"It is amazing to at least have some connection with people who have COVID-19, which we know is really hard today," Shoop said. 

Credit: WUSA9
Benches for family and friends of Covid patients that can see loved ones through the window

Outside of the new wing, across from each window is a bench where family members can sit and wave to their loved ones inside. There aren't designated visiting hours for the benches, family and friends can pop by anytime to say hi.

The average stay in one of the infection containment unit beds is about five to six days. Shoop was recently discharged and sent home to continue her recovery. WUSA9 was told she’s very tired but getting better every day.

Credit: WUSA9
Amy Shoop visits her mother Donna at Meritus Health's new covid-19 unit

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