The Bulletin emailed more than a dozen local nursing homes, assisted living facilities, senior living centers and long- and short-term care facilities to ask them for information about the precautions and protocols they have in place to deal with COVID-19. Here are the responses we received.
- Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico and Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico: “We are following all CDC guidelines and taking the necessary precautions to keep our patients and staff safe and healthy. We screen each employee prior to their shifts and we are not permitting any visitors at this time,” said Andriena Rosati Martinez, director of marketing and business development.
- Blue Horizon Memory Care is “following all CDC and (New Mexico) Department of Health (NMDOH) guidelines,” said owner Tracy Ayers, who is also board president of the New Mexico Alzheimer’s Association. “In addition to practicing all recommended universal health precautions and PPE usage, we are screening all staff prior to each shift using a screening tool provided to us by NMDOH and CDC, residents’ temperatures are taken daily and they are monitored for symptoms 24 hours a day. We have an ample supply of PPE thanks to our managers who have been going all over town for weeks to buy what they can when they can and, most recently, we received an emergency supply from the Doña Ana County Emergency Management team. We provide NMDOH with information every single morning regarding staffing, residents, PPE inventory, etc.” Ayers said Blue Horizon residents and staff are tested for COVID-19 “on a case-by-case basis and directed by NMDOH.” She said Blue Horizon is not currently allowing any visitors into its communities at present. “We are doing electronic visits using Face Time, etc., and we have windows and six—feet-away patio visits, following all guidelines. As owners, we would like to everyone to know how fabulous our staff has been,” Ayers added. “They have been given extra duties, they continue to come, they continue to not only be the caregivers but the surrogate families in a time when families can't be around. They are working so hard to keep the residents’ spirits up. In addition, NMDOH and the New Mexico Ombudsman Program have provided us with a lot of support, getting supplies and getting electronic tablets to assist with virtual visits.”
This protocol is also being followed at Casa Bella, which Ayers co-owns.
- Mesilla Valley Hospice. “The health of our patients, assisted living residents, staff and volunteers is of the utmost importance to us, therefore we are taking every necessary precaution and following guidance from NMDOH) and the CDC,” said CEO Nina Salmon. “All facility patients and residents are screened for symptoms daily. Staff and anyone else coming into the facility are screened at the door immediately upon entrance to the facility. We are not allowing visitors except for in situations where the patients are very near end of life. In fact, we started restricting visitors very early on, before the state mandated. Right now, we are in the process of having 100 percent of our staff and residents tested for COVID-19. Once this is completed, the DOH will require us to test 15 percent of our staff and residents on a weekly basis. Anyone who comes into the facility is required to complete a screening questionnaire, have their temperature taken, wear a mask and they are escorted to and from their destination within the building. We know how vulnerable the population we serve is, and we are working around the clock to keep our patients and residents as safe and healthy as possible. It is a tough situation that facilities are dealing with right now, and it was especially tough when we had to stop allowing all visitors. I know what it is like to lose a loved one, and I empathize for our families who are not able to spend this very precious time with their loved one. We keep the families notified as things change with our protocols, and we are also doing what we can to keep them connected through phone calls and Facetime,” Salmon said.
- Village at Northrise. “CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began providing protocols and guidelines for the coronavirus,” said Chief Medical Officer Richard Feifer. “The Village at Northrise campus has diligently followed them and in many cases, has gotten out in front of public health guidelines, adopting even more stringent infection precautions than were recommended at the time. Some additional steps we have taken include: Screening residents and patients for symptoms – first daily and now three times daily; actively screening and taking temperatures of all staff upon building entry; visitation restrictions, except for exceptional circumstances, such as end-of-life situations; cancellation of all outside medical appointments except for medically necessary and time-sensitive treatments, such as dialysis and chemotherapy. To make things easier for families, we have implemented the ability for families and loved ones to perform video conferencing calls using Zoom technology. At this time, the Village at Northrise campus does not have any cases of COVID-19. If we were to have a positive case, we would notify patients, residents and families immediately and would update them via regular video conference calls,” Feifer said.
- Desert Peaks Assisted Living and Memory Care. “As you may be aware, this is a very difficult time for a lot of long-term care communities and those caring for elders. It’s also a time when we’ve been able to see, first-hand, an incredible level of human spirit – seen in the outpouring of support and appreciation we’ve received, and the caring commitment from our team members who are on the front lines of healthcare,” said Compass’ Communications Leader Amira T. Fahoum. “Desert Peaks is following appropriate guidance from the federal, state and local level. We have had stringent precautions in place for the past eight weeks which have included allowing only essential visitors and team members to enter, screening of all employees and essential visitors prior to entry, physical distancing within our community, enhanced cleaning procedures and careful monitoring of all residents for any symptoms associated with COVID-19. Since then, added precautions within the community include: asking all residents and team members to wear masks when out in the common areas and around others to prevent droplet transmission; taking oxygen levels from all residents and team members daily because we have learned that a low oxygen level may be a precursor to symptoms of the virus; taking temperatures daily of all residents and team members because a high fever is the most common symptom of the virus; and asking all team members to stay at home when not at the community and take the same precautions in their own homes to prevent contracting it outside the community.
“These procedures are designed to minimize the risk of exposure,” Fahoum said. “Until recently, given limited testing availability, testing has only been available to individuals displaying symptoms. At this time, we have partnered with local health authorities to begin to test all of our team members. Our company has also partnered with a private lab to obtain testing kits for any residents and team members not able to be tested through the local authorities. We are in the process of testing now and, to date, have received all negative test results.
“We will continue to keep the safety of our residents and team members our absolute priority. We are in frequent communication with our residents, their families and our team members to provide them with clear information and updates as we have them. We are heartened by the tremendous spirit we’ve seen displayed by our residents, team members, and our residents’ families, as we’ve all responded to this unprecedented situation.”
Desert Peaks is part of Compass Senior Living Communities, based in Eugene, Oregon.
NMDOH is tracking positive COVID-19 cases in residents and/or staff at 25 congregate living and acute care facilities around the state. One of those facilities is in Las Cruces. On Tuesday morning, May 5, NMDOH Public Information Officer David Morgan said that facility had one staff member “in their 20s who tested positive. That person has gone on to test negative in retesting and has since been cleared as recovered,” Morgan said.