By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Care centers express calm in the face of virus

The coronavirus is scary, but when you’re a medically frail resident of a care center, all viruses are scary, said Del Zook, CEO of Rock of Ages Mennonite Home near McMinnville.

Flu season brings a certain level of anxiety to places such as Rock of Ages. Coronavirus, which has killed 13 residents of a nursing facility near Seattle, adds another layer of concern.

“We want to make sure we’re as protected as possible because our residents are particularly vulnerable,” Zook said. “For you and I, we get the flu, we get sick for a while, and we get over it,” he said. “For our residents, it could be deadly.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, 3,995 people have died from COVID-19 this year. By comparison, the flu kills an average of 646,000 people per year.

Yet COVID-19 kills a higher percentage of its victims. While the flu kills approximately 1% of the people infected, COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins statistic, kills 2.3%.

Among COVID-19’s death count are the 13 residents of the Life Care Center nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington. They account for more than half of the 22 fatalities linked to the disease in the state.

Zook said he only knows about what happened at the Washington state care center through news reports, but he doesn’t know what its staff and administrators could have done differently.

“It’s something that snuck up on them, and they took action as quickly as they could,” he said.

At his own center, Zook said he and his staff have taken a few steps in response to the coronavirus.

“We haven’t been restricting visitors, but we have advised them about the situation,” he said. “We haven’t had any disruptions. Of course, we’ve done a lot of training for the care center staff.”

Zook added he also wanted to buy more filter masks for staff members. “When we want to buy face masks, our supplier was out,” he said.

The Life Care Center nursing facility in Kirkland is owned by Life Care Centers of America, a Tennessee-based chain that is the largest privately held long-term elderly care company in the United States.

The company also owns the Life Care Center of McMinnville on Northeast 27th Street.

Damen Diaz, executive director of the local center, declined to be interviewed, but issued a formal statement, saying residents “safety and well-being are our primary concerns.”

In response to the coronavirus epidemic, Diaz said they are “communicating with the Oregon Health Care Association and going over our own infection-control policies and procedures.”

He said he and his staff are also consulting with Oregon Department of Human Services officials.

Department officials announced Monday, March 9, they have created an oversight team of more than 70 people to immediately review illness-prevention practices at all Oregon care centers.

Oregon has 670 facilities that could be reviewed.

DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht said in a news release that team members will also provide technical assistance to facilities on infection control and emergency planning.

All state licensed long-term care facilities are required to follow infection control protocols and maintain updated emergency plans that include how they will respond to a pandemic, Pakseresht said.

“At this time, we are focused on prevention because we are fortunate to have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a state-licensed care facility in Oregon,” said Mike McCormick, interim director of the Office of Aging and People with Disabilities, in the same release.

“But we also want to do everything we can now so that, in the event we have an incident of COVID-19, we are prepared to minimize its impact,” he said.

Diaz said visitors to Life Care Center’s McMinnville location are asked not to visit the building if they have traveled to or been in contact with someone who has traveled to an area with widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

They should also stay away if they are sick or feel sick, have a fever, are coughing or are experiencing shortness of breath, he said.

Healthy visitors come into the building are reminded to wash their hands and cover their noses and mouths if they cough or sneeze, he said.

They are also instructed to wear masks if they have compromised immune systems or have a frequent, non-infectious cough, Diaz said.

“This situation, although requiring additional precautions, has not disrupted our focus on resident care or the acceptance of new patients,” he said in his statement.

Mark Johnson, a concierge at the care center Brookdale McMinnville City Center, said coronavirus has definitely had an impact on his facility.

“We have a whole new rule book,” Johnson said. “We’re asking anyone who has compromised health not to visit.”

Hand sanitizer is available for all visitors, he said, and administrators are restricting large groups and canceling trips.

Deaths at the Washington state center causes everyone deep concern, but residents are facing the epidemic with courage, he said. Elderly people have lived long lives and have usually faced many travails along the way, he said.

“They’re a pretty calm bunch here,” he said.



Web Design and Web Development by Buildable