Updated: Apr 5, 2022
By: Ashley Strehl - Managing Editor of Print and Digital Publications
With COVID-19 case numbers back on the rise, many long-term care communities find themselves trying to think outside the box when finding ways to keep residents safe and healthy.
CEO and Founder of Voyage Long Term Care, Brad Underwood, and his team saw the need for a new and innovative way to keep residents safe when positive cases began re-emerging in late August. So, the organization started plans for a new, and first of its kind, dedicated COVID-19 unit within the Voyage LTC community at Edmond Health Care Center.
On September 1, 2021, Hall 300, within Edmond Health Care Center, (EHCC), was officially converted into the “Covid-wing”, where Covid positive residents are cared for in isolation away from the other residents throughout the community. The wing is not only housing residents already placed at EHCC, but they are also taking in Covid positive residents from sister communities at Skyview Nursing Center, Oak Hills Care Center, and new admissions.
With 25 beds, the residents in the unit have personalized nursing care, as outlined by Covid protocols and their physician's orders. There are also daily activity opportunities, meals, and regular opportunities for phone calls and Facetime chats with their loved ones.
We can see that from a recent increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, all ages are affected by the virus. However, we’ve also seen that the elderly faces a higher risk of severe infection due to physiological changes that can affect their immune system, as well as the fact that much of the elderly have underlying health conditions.
As of October 6th CDC provisional count reports state that since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, approximately 536,000 individuals that are 65 years of age and over have died from COVID-19 complications. In total, over 707,000 people have died from COVID-19 complications.
Voyage Long Term Care Chief Operating Officer, Kip McElwee, says that the ultimate success of the Covid wing will be when there are not enough positive Covid cases in the community to warrant a specialized unit. “Currently, the local hospitals and other nursing facilities under Voyage Long Term Care do not have the resources to provide the number of beds needed,” McElwee said. “We just want to do our part to help our residents and the local community.”
Voyage LTC is actively hiring several different positions for the unit as well, with the opportunity for CNA pay to be at least double than what they would make in a day-to-day long-term care community. Proof of COVID-19 vaccinations are required for those who wish to work in the unit. McElwee also said that the healthcare team will experience additional training opportunities on infection control/prevention. “Utilizing a separate portion of the facility provides a safer environment for those with Covid currently, those who do not have the virus, and the staff still working outside of the unit,” McElwee said. “We are using a different entrance/exit and we basically have two different facilities operating under one roof.”
Residents within the unit are tested twice weekly, or as mandated by OSDH. Once a resident tests negative, they are allowed to return back to their community. They get their picture taken and they also get to ring the Covid-free cow bell to let the whole community know that they beat Covid.
McElwee says that within her role, she has seen how negatively the pandemic has affected those in healthcare. However, she thinks that the implementation of the unit will benefit Voyage Long Term Care in the long run. “By providing beds for Covid positive residents we are lessening the burden of the overwhelming pandemic that has so unfortunately plagued healthcare,” McElwee said. “This opportunity has provided new relationships between OKC hospitals and our facility. It is a great opportunity to do our part and make new relationships along the way - all while providing specialized care for the most precious residents ever.”
The organization has high hopes for the success of the unit in keeping positive cases as low as possible. “The safety of our team and our residents is our number one priority,” Underwood said. “Innovation is at the forefront of our organization; I believe that this will be an effective and innovative way that we will continue in providing quality care to our residents.”
For more information on CDC COVID-19 guidelines in long-term care, visit https://www.cdc.gov/aging/covid19/covid19-older-adults.html .