Seeking answers to nursing home COVID deaths

Vincent Marshall
Nursing homes are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases as well as deaths, according to Ford County physicians adviser Dr. R.C. Ttrotter. FILE PHOTO

Recent reports have indicated an increase in COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes in Dodge City.

Currently, Manor of the Plains in Dodge City has said they have zero COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

"We have been very fortunate and have not had any COVID-related deaths at our campus," said Manor of the Plains marketing director Brittany Gladbach. "We continue follow strict infection prevention protocols and screening practices at our campus."

On Monday, Sept. 28 Ford County physicians adviser Dr. R.C. Trotter said there had been an increase of COVID-19 deaths from 13 but said he was unable to determine the exact number but did say they took place at nursing homes.

According to Marcia Swann, executive director at Trinity Manor in Dodge City, there have been three COVID-19-related deaths at the facility in the past two weeks.

"They have been reported to the CDC per our guidelines," Swann said. "There is always underlining conditions when it comes to residents in nursing homes. For example, if someone has brain cancer but then they get covid, it gets put in as reason for the death.

"Did they have COVID-19? Yes. Did they have COVID-19 at time of death? Yes. And those numbers get reported to government.“

As of Sept. 28, Trinity Manor reported on its Facebook page that five residents tested positive for COVID-19 with four staff members.

"Due to some staff and residents finishing quarantine, our total numbers haven't changed much though," the Trinity Facebook post said. It went on to say that Trinity does testing on Mondays, for residents and Tuesdays and Thursdays for staff.

Manor of the Plains also added an assisted living resident tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 28.

“As we continue regular testing of employees and residents, our focus remains on the health and safety of our residents and employees,” said Jeanne Gerstenkorn, PMMA’s infection preventionist and vice president for health and wellness.

"Manor of the Plains is conducting surveillance testing of employees in compliance with a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate that all employees, volunteers, agency staff, and third-party caregivers should be tested regularly based on the COVID-19 positivity rate of the county.

"Based on Ford County’s positivity rate, Manor of the Plains is testing twice a week."

Manor of the Plains added that tests were conducted on Sept. 23 of 137 residents and employees which led to the one assisted living resident testing positive.

All other tests were negative and the resident is not showing signs or symptoms at this time.

For the Kansas Soldier's Home, according to superintendent Dave Smith, it has not had any deaths and has not had any cases in its nursing home in the last two weeks.

In early September, Sunporch of Dodge City was made to adhere to a mandate that required all nursing homes to conduct testing on all staff members twice a week.

Sunporch addressed their mandate in a post on its Facebook page on Sept. 26, describing an instance where a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 and so they began to test their residents. Sunporch goes on to state that most of the residents who tested positive were asymptomatic at the time of testing.

Sunporch said they are working closely with their facility’s medical director, Dr. Andrew Schowengerdt as well as the Ford County Health Department.

Sunporch has since implemented a plan that is supposed to be retraining all current direct care staff over the next few months. The training includes the correct usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand washing.

The enhanced infection prevention measures are said to be a regular part of Sunporch’s daily routine and all residents are being closely monitored, with any changes in condition immediately reported to Schowengerdt, then family members, and then those with durable power of attorney (DPOA).

Residents who have tested positive are quarantined and are said to receive care in their rooms, including their meals throughout their quarantine period.

Sunporch further states in its Facebook post, that all residents’ needs are being met by overstaffing their shifts with auxiliary employees provided by medical staffing agencies. Team members who work directly with COVID-19 positive residents are said to receive hazard pay.

When asked whether he had a response to the reports of COVID-19 related deaths occurring in nursing homes, including Sunporch, administrator Ryan Salinas said, “Not at this time I don’t.”

Brookdale Senior Living administrator Erica Ruiz reported that her facility has had no COVID-19 related deaths, nor have they had recent active COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile throughout the whole pandemic, with the addition of being able to report no deaths from COVID-19 in her facility, Reflection Living administrator Tracee Germann, was proud to say they have not had one active case since the pandemic started.

“We’re little, we only have 12 residents for one thing and that’s all I hold and I am full, and we have been disinfecting and wearing masks, just doing all the precautions day in and day out,” attributes Germann. “I give probably 90 percent of the credit to my staff, they’ve been amazing with disinfecting and wearing their masks.

“We’ve just worked really hard to keep it this way.”

According to KDHE, as far as deaths, the processes for how they are attributed to COVID-19 are:

— Notifications of deaths in COVID-19 patients may be reported to KDHE by local health departments or providers and are marked in our disease surveillance system.

— When the death certificate is received by the KDHE Office of Vital Statistics, we verify the cause of death in our surveillance system.

"We regularly review COVID-19 deaths in the death registration system and update any COVID-19 deaths missing in the surveillance system," said KDHE director of communications Kristi Zears.

Manor of the Plains said due to the recent positive cases they have been listed as a cluster site for the virus.

"A cluster is two or more non-household cases of COVID-19 associated with a location in a specific time frame," said Gladbach.

Additional reporting by Judd Weil/Dodge City Daily Globe

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