Following a deployment to treat the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, Major Milca Rosario returned to her West Hartford home after two months. She was called into active duty to join the efforts in treating the coronavirus pandemic at Javits Center makeshift hospital.
Major Rosario was assigned to the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force 804-1. She worked on the frontlines to treat the pandemic and was responsible for a team of doctors and nurses treating COVID positive patients. She worked six days a week, 14-16 hours a day, in order to meet the need for staff and patients.
“I want to make sure my staff’s needs are completely met,” Rosario said. “I made sure to go to the floor during the day, in the afternoon, and in the evening time just to make sure everything goes well for them. It is important they have support.”
The Javits Center makeshift hospital was built to provide relief for New York Hospitals, as they were at capacity. The military hospital treated recovering patients from New York Hospitals, who were not in critical care but not well enough to be discharged from hospital care.
“It was an honor and a privilege for me to go and help them,” Rosario said “ And for my little grain of sand in helping others, I am very grateful for this opportunity. I learned a lot.”
After becoming a nurse in her native Puerto Rico, Rosario moved to Connecticut in 1991, with her two children and worked as a registered nurse. She completed a Bachelor of Nursing in 2004 and a Masters in Community Health in 2014, from the University of Hartford. She joined the Army Reserve in 2001, after the tragic events of Sept. 11.
“That was something that I wanted to do since I was very young when I was in high school a lot of my friends, joined the military,” Major Rosario said. “After what happened there was so much need for medical personnel. This was a good time for me, I saw a need.”
In her civilian role, Rosario oversees the clinical operations and clinical staff at the Retreat, the first urban-built affordable assisted living facility in all of Connecticut. She had worked as the Registered Nurse supervisor since April 2019, when Utopia Assisted Living was brought on to serve the needs of residents at the facility. She is the first Puerto Rican staff personnel in a leadership position in homecare.
The facility has 100 units, and 25 percent of its residents are from Puerto Rico and other Spanish speaking countries.
“The residents need to be heard and understood, when you can talk to somebody in your primary language, think about how respectful that is,” said Heidi Lubetkin, CRT’s Vice President of Clinical Support Services. “Milca talks to them directly and the residents feel comfortable around her.”
Lubetkin works side by side with Major Rosario at the Retreat. Lubetkin’s losing the major was something they expected but inconvenienced, she relied on Rosario’s dedication to the employees and patients for the smooth running of the facility.
Major Rosario has worked with Utopia since 2007 and has worked at smaller facilities in the same role. Based on her working experience with Rosario, Susan Turturino, administrator at Utopia Assisted Living Services, knew the major would be deployed and had a plan in place to fill Rosario’s role temporarily. With news of the pandemic regularly, Rosario worked to gather necessary medical equipment before her departure.
“I’ve never seen her stress, I’ve never seen her have anything that comes her way that will make her have any cause or alarm she’s very confident in a quiet way,” Lubetkin said. “She is a great all-around leader. She is a phenomenal role model for the staff.”
Following the completion of a two-week quarantine after returning from New York City, Rosario was welcomed back to Hartford in a ceremony hosted by the Community Renewal Team’s (CRT) President and CEO Lena Rodriguez with Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, at the facility. Along with celebrating the return of Rosario, the Retreat also celebrated being 85 days COVID-19 free.
“Today, we’re honored to recognize both the successful return of Major Milca Rosario to her role serving the needs of the seniors living at The Retreat,” said President and CEO Lena Rodriguez in a press release by CRT. “As well as the incredible feat that has been accomplished.”