PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island nursing home leaders are asking state leaders to do more to help them deal with the coronavirus pandemic after the Department of Health revealed 15 residents at three facilities have tested positive for COVID-19.
Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, identified two of the three facilities with COVID-19 cases as Oak Hill Health and Rehabilitation in Pawtucket and Golden Crest Nursing Facility in North Providence.
“In response, we’ve been working very hard at the Rhode Island Department of Health, across state government, and in the community, to make sure additional steps are being taken for this population,” said Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
Dr. Alexander-Scott went on to say it’s critical for these healthcare facilities to regularly clean every four hours. “That means using EPA registered hospital-grade disinfectants on those high touch surfaces that exist and on shared resident cared equipment,” she said.
Gov. Gina Raimondo has already banned visitors at nursing homes.
In an email Monday morning, Oak Hill Center spokesperson Jeffery Jacomowitz confirmed the number of cases there stood at six. He said those individuals are now in isolation, but have access to speak with family members through social media or on the phone.
In addition to the six who have tested positive, 27 others from the same unit are now in “protective isolation” while waiting on their test results.
Jacomowitz said anyone who shows symptoms of illness will be swabbed, and workers continue to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) gear as advised by the Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Rhode Island Health Care Association (RIHCA) says that COVID-19 is creating significant challenges to the operations of its 64 member nursing homes. They are calling on the state for assistance with enhanced pre-admission testing, access to additional workers, and PPE to meet their needs during the crisis.
“The needs of nursing homes deserve immediate attention, as our homes are caring for thousands of residents,” RIHCA President Scott Fraser said in a statement. “Right now, we are struggling to secure the testing, workers and equipment we need to move through this pandemic.”
Department of Health officials say they are looking at the discharge process, when a patient leaves a hospital and heads to a nursing home.
“It’s important to protect our nursing home population against having people who are COVID positive returning, unless the nursing home has the capacity to isolate the person,” Alexander-Scott said.