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Lovell FHCC Monthly Newsletter - January 2021

A Message from Leadership ...

Captain Thomas J. Nelson, MC, USN, Deputy Director, Commanding Officer

CAPT Nelson

It’s been quite the start to the year 2021 here at Lovell FHCC. Our hospital has vaccinated more than 5,000 staff and patients over the past month, reflecting a tremendous group effort! In the following month, many will be getting their 2nd Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, while many others will be receiving scheduling calls from us to set up their first vaccinations at our clinics.

One of the patients that received the vaccine was none other than Lovell FHCC's namesake, Captain James Lovell, retired astronaut and a Navy veteran. I was happy to personally spend some time with him, along with our Director Dr. Bob Buckley, to discuss this important step of educating our patients and staff on the benefits, effectiveness, and importance of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Captain Lovell agreed, and allowed us to videotape the message, posted here, which includes the quote: "Really, everybody should be getting the vaccine to cut out this coronavirus … Let's get rid of this terrible virus that's taken over the entire country."

Our FHCC schedulers continue to call Lovell patients (both VA and Tricare) who regularly get their care at our facility and fall into one of the first prioritized outpatient groups: age 75 and older; and dialysis, organ transplant, chemotherapy, and immunosuppressant therapy patients. As we complete vaccinations for those patients, we’ll begin to call others, based on CDC, VA and DoD prioritization guidance.  Again, you will receive a call from FHCC staff as we get to your priority group. We are unable to accommodate walk-in vaccinations, currently. Visit our Facebook page and website to view the most-up-to date patient criteria of the priority group we are currently calling. Our goal is to offer the vaccine to all FHCC patients and staff who want it, as supplies permit.

We have also established a COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 224-610-4636, available 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. on weekdays for patients and staff to call with questions about the vaccine. Hotline operators cannot schedule appointments. You can also visit the CDC website to learn more about the vaccines currently available to fight this pandemic.

immunization clinic

Captain James Lovell and his wife, Marilyn Lovell, are welcomed by Immunization Clinic staff and leadership at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center . (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Minh-Thy Chu)

Let's Get Social

FHCC has a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please see the links below to visit our social media sites. Below are the posts that received the highest engagement for the month.

Top Posts from January

I Got the COVID-19 Vaccine because...


Each person has their reasons for stepping up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We asked a few sailors what theirs were. See the full post on our Facebook page. 

"Why I became a Nurse" Series

Nurse Blair  

As part of an occasional series of posts, we're highlighting and talking to our FHCC nurses about why they chose to pursue their noble profession.

In January, we talked to RN Blaise Gwellem. Read about his journey to become an FHCC nurse on our FHCC Facebook page.

Leaders Welcome Newly Appointed Ombudsman 


Senior leaders formally welcomed incoming Command Ombudsman, Judy York. See all the photos on the FHCC Facebook page.

COVID-19 vaccine is administered at FHCC

Fisher Vaccines  

Staff and patients at FHCC are receiving the Moderna vaccine. Keep up with the latest COVID-19 vaccine updates on the FHCC Facebook page.

FHCC Community Living Center Visitation Booth is Up and Running


Story by: Jayna Legg, Public Affairs Specialist

Originally posted to FHCC Facebook Jan. 5, 2021

FHCC Community Living Center resident Dennis Ferguson enthusiastically clutched a daily newspaper and quickly wheeled into the booth, ready to discuss the day’s news with his son.

The Army Vietnam War veteran wore a New York Yankees face mask, a tip-off that much of his conversation with Mark Ferguson would be sports related, and the rest would be family updates.

Mark soon arrived, with a milk shake, double cheeseburger and fries for his Dad. Normally, he explained, the two would eat together, but because of COVID-19, Mark decided not to get anything for himself this visit, and he restrained himself from stealing a sip of the shake.

He handed the food and cup to a recreation therapist to pass to his Dad, and Mark then sat down outside the booth to talk to his Dad through the plexiglass barrier.

“This is good,” Mark said. “It’s a lot closer than I thought it would be. I was wondering if it would be too far away, and then he wouldn’t hear me.”

Outside of video chats and one visit outside his Dad’s window on a warm day, father and son hadn’t had a visit since the pandemic closed the FHCC’s CLC to visitors in the Spring of 2020.

Now with the new floor-to-ceiling booth built by a FHCC Facility Management crew, it was the second in-person visit for Dennis Ferguson in a week’s time. The week prior, as part of a dry run for “Operation Visitation,” his daughter, Amy Ferguson, stopped by to chat, and later this week, a third relative is scheduled to visit.

“This is smart,” said Mark, who visited his Dad weekly pre-pandemic. He appreciated the small table set up against the booth, where he rested a small dry erase board he brought to write down words his Dad might not understand. Dennis Ferguson, a CLC resident since 2017, had a stroke and sometimes has trouble communicating.

Dennis volunteered during the Vietnam War, Mark said, enlisting from the South side of Chicago where he grew up.

Every step of the visit was carefully choreographed to keep both patient and visitor safe from COVID-19. FHCC Supervisory Recreation Therapist Sean Gartland explained that before the resident and visitor arrived to Room C121 in the CLC, he ran a large whole-room air filter. Additionally, the rules require staff to wipe down surfaces inside and outside the booth, leave a door open for air circulation and make sure both people are thoroughly screened for COVID-19 or other symptoms of illness.

FHCC is one of the first hospitals in Veterans Integrated Service Network 12 to implement the new visitation plan, Gartland said.

And it’s not a minute too soon for CLC residents, who have not only been unable to see visitors in person but have had parties, cookouts and bingo cancelled inside the CLC and outside activities curtailed, such as trips to restaurants, concerts and sporting events.

“Your Dad keeps asking me every day when he gets to go out to eat again,” Recreation Therapist Karen Fleming told Mark Ferguson. “His favorites are the bus outings.”

CLC staff are calling family members of residents to set up visits at during three half-hour time slots, weekdays until regular in-person visits resume.

Lovell Builds New COVID-19 Drive Through Testing Facility

building 33

Story by: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Minh-Thy Chu

Inspired by pandemic challenges, Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center has built a new drive-thru facility for medical procedures, Building 33, informally called “The Pole Barn.” 

The largest construction project ever completed by in-house Lovell FHCC personnel, the new structure allows Lovell providers to test, vaccinate, and provide other types of care to patients in their vehicles, minimizing exposure to people and surfaces that can potentially spread COVID-19, influenza and other infectious diseases.  Ultimately planned to provide drive-thru vaccinations to FHCC patients, COVID-19 surveillance swabbing of Recruit Detachment Commanders has already been moved to the new structure.

“One of the things building 33 really does is allow for maximum social distancing,” Kathleen Kennedy, Assistant Director of Plans and Operations said.

Prior to the completion of this testing facility, FHCC staff was providing swab tests for personnel from Recruit Training Command and Naval Training Center from a tent set up on the FHCC campus. Here the staff would give about 200 tests 1-2 times a week.

“Even though the tent was a great asset - I think giving our staff an enclosed structure with lights, heat, and tables has really benefitted our team doing this testing,” Kennedy said.

Since established in 2010, the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center is the nation’s first fully-integrated federal health care center in support of both the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. A mission best captured through the motto, “Readying Warriors, Caring for Heroes.” 

“Building 33 is a great example of integration,” Kennedy said. “We were able to use in-house personnel and we had a mission, primarily the testing for RTC and NTC, that really drove that building.”

The construction of Building 33 began in September 2020 as soon as the materials arrived and by mid-December was complete. Michael McCullough, carpenter shop supervisor, and his shop workers logged in close to 3,000 hours to construct this building. Edwin Lopez, electric shop supervisor, and his team invested near 900 hours in the construction of this building.

“The shops’ supervisors, Edwin and Mike, were always a step ahead of the workers with material and ideas, so there was no lapse in work or any down times waiting on material,” Derrik Heinzen, Facility Operations Specialist at Lovell FHCC said.

Another individual who was a main contributor to the completion of this project was carpenter, Thomas Arndt. Arndt oversaw many aspects of the construction including building design, planning the physical location, groundwork preparations, and coordinating with other trades to accomplish any necessary tasks. Facility Management at Lovell FHCC currently has six in-house shops including electrical, carpenter/paint, AC/refrigerator, and service unit. Considering the purpose of Building 33, the completion of the project was a crucial step and utilizing FHCC’s in-house expertise was extremely beneficial.

“The fact that we did this job in-house, we did not waste time soliciting, awarding bids, and building packages,” Heinzen said. “This usually adds 6 months to a year onto a time frame.”

Some future goals for Building 33 that are currently under development include expanding the swab testing for FHCC staff as well. Another one is potentially utilizing the drive through for mass patient vaccinations once the COVID-19 vaccine is available to larger numbers of people. In the long run, Building 33 may become an even bigger factor in deploying the vaccine and keeping patients and staff members safe. This could not be possible without the work of Lovell FHCC’s in-house shops and the joint effort to limit the spread of this virus.

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