Nursing homes change protocol to keep residents safe

Published 12:20 am Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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Changes have been made in nursing homes to protect a vulnerable part of our population.

Locking doors, limiting visitation, and screenings are being done to reduce the risk of COVID-19, or coronavirus.

Michelle Lair, vice president of clinical service for Gulf Healthcare Center/Southwest LTC, said they are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

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The Port Arthur facility is limiting visitors and the doors are locked. If a person does enter the facility, he or she is screened for symptoms such as fever, cough and runny nose. The person is also asked if he or she has traveled internationally or been on a cruise in the past 14 days.

Washing hands or cleaning with a hand sanitizer is part of the protocol.

“We are encouraging visitors to reschedule their visits at a later date when the risk of COVID-19 reduces for the protection of the residents,” Lair said. “We have a vulnerable population.”

Lair said they are also working with residents that live there to make sure they know how to properly wash hands and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Gulf Healthcare Center, located at 6600 Ninth Ave., has approximately 80 residents but can hold more.

The center’s parent company, Southwest LTC, has 2,000 residents between Texas and Oklahoma.

“We prepare for infection control because of the flu and how it affects our population,” Lair said, adding all facilities have at least two staff members certified in infection control for healthcare in long-tem care facilities. During the flu season, control measures are ramped up.

“This is something we always prepare for,” she said.

Danny Duplechin, administrator at Oak Grove Nursing Home at 6230 Warren St. in Groves, said its doors are locked as well. The nursing home is asking for no unnecessary visits, including family members, as a precaution because the elderly are of the highest risk for contracting the virus.

The CDC has noted the older population and those with serious, chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk.

“If it’s not absolutely necessary, we are asking that you do not come visit,” Duplechin said.

Those who choose to visit will be screened, Duplechin added. He said Oak Grove has 75 residents.

“We’re good here,” he said. “We’re taking all the standard precautions when taking care of our residents.”

The general strategies the CDC recommends to prevent the spread of coronavirus are the same the facilities use everyday to detect and prevent the spread of other respiratory viruses like influenza.

Kenny Blanda, executive director at Bonne Vie, 8595 Medical Center Blvd. in Port Arthur, and Magnolia Manor Skilled Nursing Center, 4400 Gulf Ave. in Groves, said they are working extremely hard on a daily basis to proactively prevent the spread of any illness among residents, including the coronavirus.

“While the immediate threat to our residents, and those who work in and visit our communities, remains small, we firmly believe that we must be prepared at all times to try and prevent coronavirus and other common viruses from occurring and spreading, especially given the senior population we are privileged to serve,” Bland said. “We will continue to work in partnership with other health experts and public officials to keep our residents’ safe. Our residents’ and employees’ heath and safety remain our top priority at all times.”

Checking in

Even if one can’t visit the nursing home, he or she can check on loved ones in other ways.

“Families can call anytime to check on their family members,” Lair said. “We are currently working on ways to increase communication via multiple media formats.”

Duplechin said families can call to check in, and Oak Grove also will post updates on Facebook and Instagram.