Nursing Homes, Healthcare Heroes, and COVID-19

5/15/2020 3:32:42 PM

Our promise is to help seniors age on their own terms by providing safe environments where quality healthcare is delivered.  We promise to do that with compassion, respect, gratitude, and leadership.  That was our promise prior to COVID-19.  It is still our promise.  And it will be our promise when this crisis is behind us. 

But the crisis is not behind us.  Our employees, like all healthcare heroes, show up despite uncertainty, fear, and even a little anxiety.  We are charged with caring for the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.  It's a challenge we wholeheartedly embrace.  We have been caring for seniors in Ohio and West Virginia for more than 30 years.  We own and operate a continuum of care, but the focus of this article will be on long-term care facilities such as our eight nursing homes and two assisted living communities.  Like most long-term care providers, we care for seniors and the elderly with underlying healthcare conditions and an array of comorbidities.  

During this coronavirus pandemic, Capital Health Care Network has been working tirelessly to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our residents and staff.  Until recently, we were coronavirus free.  Unfortunately, on April 22nd we had our first confirmed case of COVID-19, and we now have two campuses with at least one positive case.  We have opted to provide a COVID-19 report for our long-term care communities on our website as a matter of transparency.  That report will be introduced on May 19th and updated every Tuesday thereafter.  The Ohio Department of Health also provides a COVID-19 dashboard which lists long-term care facilities by county with positive cases starting on April 15th.  That report is updated every Wednesday.  Like our report, it reflects current and cumulative cases. 

Our hardest hit community is Meadows of Scioto in the southeast quadrant of Columbus.  It is our largest nursing home with 125 beds located at 433 Obetz Road in Franklin County.  Franklin County currently has a total of 4,227 confirmed cases, which is the largest number of cases in a single Ohio county.  We opted to test every single resident and staff member after we had our first confirmed case. We felt compelled to move quickly with testing so that everyone who was positive but asymptomatic could be quarantined as soon as possible.  Our number one priority was and continues to be the safety and well-being of our residents.  

New research has identified location as a contributing factor more so than metrics like star-ratings or ownership type in forecasting the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak.  "What we're seeing in our data is it tends to be larger facilities - urban facilities in areas with more cases - that tend to be facilities with COVID cases," said David Grabowski, PhD, professor of health care policy, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School in a recent article.

In other words, the virus is more likely to get in because so many more people are carrying the virus who also happen to be asymptomatic.  

"I had hoped, with the current focus on healthcare workers as heroes, that the demonizing of nursing homes would cease during the pandemic.  It hasn't.  I've seen very few news stories blaming hospitals when patients die from COVID-19 but nearly every story about people dying in a nursing home outbreak somehow blames the nursing home," writes Jill Vitale-Aussem on ChangingAging.  Jill Vitale-Aussem, NHA, MMH is currently the President and CEO of Eden Alternative.  She has more than 20 years of experience in senior living leadership and is the author of "Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift."  Those sentiments were echoed loudly in "Hospitals are heroic, while nursing homes are always to blame," by Brendan Williams, President and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association.  

We are not sure why long-term care facilities tend to be blamed instead of supported.  We have witnessed firsthand our own employees rise to the occasion in the face of great criticism and skepticism.  What we do know for sure is that those hard-working, dedicated, devoted employees who rise up day after day and stand strong on the front-lines, despite the threat of COVID-19, to care for the at-risk who depend on them should be commended and applauded.  We salute you!  And we are proud to be long-term care providers.  We will get through this together.  We are #strongertogether.