COVID-19 May 13 Update- An Open Letter to the Public

5/13/2020

From Nick Lewis, CEO of Hardin Medical Center

On Saturday, May 10, Hardin Medical Center was notified a hospitalized patient, formerly in the nursing home, tested positive for COVID-19.  As a part of protocol for nursing home admissions HMC Health and Rehabilitation Center requires every patient regardless of referral source to have a negative COVID-19 test prior to admission.  This is a process to reduce the likelihood of introducing COVID-19 into our nursing home.  This is not a requirement of the State of Tennessee Department of Health or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Jeanne Franks, Nursing Home Administrator stated, “Our residents are part of our extended family.  Everyone is precious and special.  Our job is to protect them, and we’re going to do all we can to prevent them from being exposed to anyone who may be positive.” 

Hospitals and nursing homes routinely take care of infectious patients.  Standards of practice have been in place to treat respiratory droplet infections for years.  An example of a respiratory droplet infection previously managed in hospitals was Tuberculosis (TB).  COVID-19 is a respiratory droplet infection managed under same standards.  The difference is COVID-19 has a seemingly easy means of transmission more so than TB or any other organism in the last 100 years.  Managing patients with COVID-19 requires flawless execution of procedures.  Even minor errors in procedures can produce a risk.  Our job is to protect our staff, patients, nursing home residents, and the community. 
 
As a precautionary measure, 175 people including staff members and nursing home residents were tested over the weekend for COVID-19 to ensure processes were sufficiently adhered for prevention of transmission.  It was not necessary to test all nursing home staff or residents, but Governor Bill Lee issued an order at the end of April requiring all nursing home staff and residents be tested within a 48 hour time period by the end of May.  Nick Lewis, CEO of Hardin Medical Center, stated, “Working with Jeanne Franks, Nursing Home Administrator, and Jordon Gray, Laboratory Director, a decision was made to expedite accomplishment of the Governor’s order. 

As a result of the weekend testing, a member of the rehabilitation treatment team of HMC Health and Rehabilitation Center tested positive.  The individual was sent home under self-quarantine.  In addition to the individual who tested positive, other staff members who interacted with the individual for more than 10 minutes while within 6 feet were also sent home to self-isolate for 14 days in spite of their own negative results from the testing.  As of the publication of this notice, there have been no residents, patients nor staff showing any signs and symptoms of COVID-19.  Monitoring will continue as it has been since the beginning of COVID-19.  The Tennessee Department of Health has been notified and immediate measures have been put in place. 

For the safety of our residents, patients and staff, anyone entering any HMC buildings, including staff, have been and will continue to be screened upon reporting to work which includes the recording of temperature and a brief assessment.  The staff has been trained and has been drilling the practice of precautions in the case of a positive COVID-19 result. All direct patient care staff members have been wearing masks and protective eyewear as a barrier for several weeks; while, nursing home residents, who tolerate a mask, will now begin wearing a mask. The nursing home goes through several cleanings of hard surfaces per day with agents meeting CDC and FDA requirements to be effective against COVID-19 virus.  Treatment rooms solely utilized by the residents for rehabilitation will be cleaned utilizing vaporized hydrogen peroxide (an FDA approved process) which is utilizing new equipment purchased within the last month for this specific reason.
HMC Health and Rehabilitation is performing contact tracing in the work place while the Tennessee Department of Health has begun the process of performing non-work related contact tracing. Staff and nursing home residents are being closely monitored for signs and symptoms over the next 14 days. 

When a rural facility experiences the first COVID-19 positives, the first rule of thumb is to assure all processes were followed. At HMC, we have taken extra steps to prevent transmission if an individual is positive within the organization.  All direct patient care staff have been wearing masks and protective eyewear to block the most common pathways for contracting COVID-19, the mouth, nose and eyes.  All patients entering the hospital, whether as an emergency room patient, a physical therapy patient, laboratory patient are being masked.  The COVID-19 virus is more easily transmitted than any organism seen in the US since the Spanish Flu. Findings from a recent study indicate up to 80% of infected individuals show no signs or symptoms.  The best example of a “silent carrier” was one of our staff who had no symptoms and no fever.  We take the responsibility of providing safe quality care of our residents, patients and staff seriously. 

HMC will continue to stay on top of this situation and update the community as new information becomes available.


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