Intensive care unit and emergency services doctors working to treat COVID-19 victims at local hospitals, occupying a precarious spot on the frontline of the crisis, risking infection by the same virus ravaging the patients they’re fervently trying to save.
These physicians also must ponder the wisdom of returning to their homes, where they risk spreading any infection to their families. Rather than merely ponder that dilemma, the owner of South Pasadena’s Bissell House Bed & Breakfast has stepped up to dedicate all seven rooms at the B&B and its amenities to safely house these heroic doctors during the crisis at no cost.
“We are working closely with the local hospitals’ leadership to ensure the safety of the property staff and the doctors themselves with specific protocols designed to ensure a comfortable stay for as long as they need,” said Bissell House owner Will Hoyman. The facility is ramping up to meet the Hospital’s specs for sanitation and cleanliness, wiping surfaces and disinfecting rooms.
One area of the house is being set aside as a changing station for doctors returning from shifts. “We will follow whatever standards they have.” The highly rated Bissell House offers a “relaxing, comfortable environment for respite and recuperation,” Hoyman noted. Its location is central to several Hospitals in the area, which “means less time commuting for our critical medical doctors.”
Like other hospitality venues, Bissell House has faced a flood of cancellations over the last few weeks, leaving the B&B empty. “So it makes sense to donate our facility to the cause,” Hoyman said. He is relying on “pure faith” that the public will help cover the cost of the plan. In addition to reaching out directly to potential contributors, Hoyman is working with a business operations expert in South Pasadena on the logistics of outreach, contributions, and tax-deductible donations to cover the basic operational costs of the rooms. They are committing to at least six weeks of stays for what is sure to be a very weary medical staff. A GoFundMe page has been established; or people can visit bissellhouse.com to make a contribution.
Hoyman and the staff are enthusiastic about the idea. “Whatever small role we can play to help alleviate the stress of the doctors” is worthwhile, he said, and will enable them to offer “better and more refreshed care at the hospital.”
Bissell House has operated as a B&B since 1995. Now owned entirely by Hoyman, he and his sisters Julie, Janet and Jennifer began operating the business in 2005, when the family purchased it to spare the commute from Encino for their mother, who moved into the proprietor’s quarters.
One of the oldest homes on South Pasadena’s list of Historic Landmarks, the 1887 Shingle style structure was home to philanthropist Anna Bissell McCay who lived there between 1902 and the 1950’s.
McCay helped organize a group that became the Pasadena Chapter of the Red Cross, an organization to which she was devoted, as were others in her family. When World War I began in 1914, “I plunged into Red Cross war work, and hardly thought of anything else,” she wrote in her memoir. Remarkably apropos of today’s events, McCay in the fall of 1918 went to New York to engage in nursing during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
McCay was the eldest of the five children of Melville Reuben Bissell, inventor of the carpet sweeper that he patented in 1876. Her mother, Anna Sutherland Bissell, became known as America’s first female CEO due to her assumption of that role after her 45-year-old husband died of pneumonia in 1889.
As CEO and later board chair over nearly five decades, she brought the company into the international market and was among the first business leaders to introduce workman’s comp and pension programs. She served on hospital boards and with the Red Cross in Michigan, where she founded the original Bissell House, a training program for youth and immigrant women.
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