Dallas senior retirement community designated as a COVID-19 unit

A facility has been created for people who are COVID-19 positive and need help recuperating but are well enough to stay out of the hospital.

This could be a way to keep hospital beds open while giving patients the care they need.

This is the first continuing care retirement facility in Dallas to get the designation from the county to operate as a COVID-19 unit.

It's in a stand-alone building staffed by a nursing team that only tends to the COVID-19 patients. New patients are transferred directly from hospitals or other facilities.

Tim Mallad is the CEO of Forefront Living, the company that owns and operates Presbyterian Village North in Dallas.

“It presented a great opportunity for us to create the isolation that we felt was needed to care for COVID patients,” he said.

The sprawling 60-acre retirement community is where the standalone COVID-19 unit housed in a vacant health center is located.

“The people who are admitted to this unit would be somebody that we would admit to our short term rehab, but they have COVID-19,” said Joni Watson with Presbyterian Village North.

The building initially housed nine of its own residents who contracted COVID-19 in mid-April.

The nursing staff who cares for them does not interact with the rest of the retirement community. They wear full PPE and go through a decontamination process before heading home. Their assignment to the COVID unit is voluntary.

“The staff can enter and exit in a totally different area and isolate the patients that are there,” Watson said.

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Dallas on the rise, the facility felt compelled to open up their 19-bed facility to outside patients. They recently got the go-ahead from Dallas County.

“There wasn’t any official application process, but we approached them and said we have this building. It’s separate,” Mallad said. “It has a separate mechanical system, separate air conditioning, separate entrances and a separate team. And it really ticked all of the boxes I think for what they were looking for.”

Eight patients are already in the unit. More are expected in the coming days.