When leaders at the Good Samaritan Society learned about COVID-19 occurrences in the state of Washington, they knew they needed to prepare as soon as possible to keep residents and staff members across the organization safe.
“The CDC guidance and recommendations have been our source of truth for how to contain and isolate the virus,” says Rochelle Rindels, vice president of nursing and clinical services for the Good Samaritan Society.
With the senior population being the most vulnerable to COVID-19, the Good Samaritan Society implemented precautions to protect residents’ health, including visitor restrictions and illness screening for employees and residents.
“Without showing symptoms the first four to five days, you can be contagious and spread the virus,” says Rochelle. “That was a risk we didn’t want to take.”
Because infection control is important in all Society locations, several additional measures are being taken.
“Safety is a top priority for our staff and residents, especially at this time,” Rochelle says. “We’re reviewing on a daily basis and continually improving those steps and processes.”
When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced an infection prevention self-assessment tool this week, Society leaders put together a checklist to make sure there are no gaps.
“We’ve definitely had safety as top of mind priority these past couple of weeks,” says Rochelle.
Screening employees, residents and clients
The Society is screening residents, employees, clients and clients’ family members for COVID-19 based on travel, exposure and symptoms.
Employees are being screened using questions based on CMS and CDC guidance, which continue to be updated.
If an employee shows any signs of a potential respiratory issue, they are directed to call their primary care physician. There is a return to work process for any employee who has been ill.
If residents have any symptoms, a respiratory assessment is done.
When a home health nurse visits a client, a screening is done for them and any family members living with them.
Supplies on hand
As for supplies for staff members, Rochelle says this is a hot topic right now.
“With many of our supplies being produced overseas, other countries are competing for these supplies,” she says. “Sanford and the Good Samaritan Society have been exploring a diverse way of securing these products.”
Home care nurses are still conducting visits to their clients and have personal protective equipment available for use.
How the Society makes sure protocols are followed
Since the Society is spread across many states, each region has a vice president and nurse consultant.
These leaders work daily with the Society’s public policy group to learn the guidance coming from the states.
There is different guidance on personal protective equipment and who can and cannot enter nursing homes.
Seniors most at risk
Rochelle reminds that those over the age of 60 are more vulnerable to be impacted by the virus, as well as those who have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.
“Social distancing is really important in our elderly population right now because of the transmission of this virus,” she says. “Sharing a meal or speaking closely with someone really puts them at risk.”