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Nursing facilities face pandemic’s challenges

  • Poet’s Seat Health Care Center at 359 High St. in Greenfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2020 4:49:35 PM

Michele Carney says Poet’s Seat Health Care Center on High Street in Greenfield is doing everything in its power to protect its employees and residents against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have the equipment we need and we’ve been able to keep up with help from state and local governments,” Carney said. “We’ve also had lots of volunteers dropping off masks at our door.”

She said those include handmade masks and N95 masks.

While Carney said the center has had some “confirmed cases” of COVID-19, Poet’s Seat does not share those numbers with the press — how many confirmed cases, how many have been hospitalized, how many have been quarantined within the building and whether any have died.

She said the less sick are kept at Poet’s Seat and the more severely ill are taken to the hospital.

“We’re keeping people out of the facility — there is no visitation — and we as caretakers are acting as if everyone, including ourselves, are exposed and positive, so we’re wearing masks and those in direct care are wearing protection,” Carney said. “We have gowns, shields, eye protection, all that we need.”

Carney said staff members are trying not to move residents around, because it is their home and they want them to feel comfortable, not scared.

“We are also consultant-free, unless we really need someone in here,” she said. “In the beginning, we weren’t letting staff in if they worked in another facility, but we’re allowing it now, as long as they aren’t showing symptoms and they’re taking proper precautions.”

Carney said the facility is “bending over backward” to follow all state and federal guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy.

“So many industries are affected, so we’re making sure supplies stay outside until we’ve taken proper protocol,” she said.

The rooms and hallways are much more quiet than usual, Carney said, but staff members are doing all they can to keep residents happy and entertained.

“We even have a cardboard ice cream truck that rings a bell and delivers ice cream to the residents each day,” she said. “And, the community of Greenfield has been wonderful. That’s the good news in all of this.”

LaBelle’s Rest Home

Just a few miles up the Mohawk Trail, Carole Musante, acting administrator at LaBelle’s Rest Home on High Street in Shelburne Falls, said there have been no COVID-19 cases there as of late this week.

“We sent out letters right away and started taking precautions,” Musante said. “We started restricting visitors early on and asked staff that were not following our protocol to quarantine at home.”

Musante said packages are left outside until staff can clean them, and residents and staff are screened every day.

“We’re using computers as much as possible for online visits and discussions with psychologists and doctors,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone stays here and doesn’t go anywhere, except for staff going home after their shifts.”

Musante said what’s been most difficult is that spring is the time of year for colds, flu, allergies and such, so staff members have to keep a close watch when someone starts sneezing.

She said there are currently 17 residents living there and two rooms have been set up for isolation, if needed.

“We’ve got TVs, beds, books, everything someone could want if they need to be isolated,” she said. “We’ve set up a system to transport someone if they have to go to the hospital to be tested.”

Musante said people who have “mixed diagnoses” live at LaBelle’s. She said it is for people with mental and physical health issues who can live independently, but need some help. The age range of people accepted there is 20 to people into their 90s.

“We’re working hard to get through this without any cases,” she said.

Buckley HealthCare Center

National HealthCare Corp. in Tennessee, which owns Buckley HealthCare Center in Greenfield, did not return multiple calls and emails from the Greenfield Recorder throughout the week.

On its website, Buckley says: “We can confirm that 17 patients at Buckley HealthCare Center have tested positive for COVID-19, five of whom have been transported to a local hospital for treatment. The center had already taken steps to isolate the infected patients when symptoms occurred to prevent additional exposure. Buckley HealthCare Center continues to follow protocols set forth by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Massachusetts Department of Public Health to isolate this situation.

“In line with those protocols, all patients and partners (employees) are being closely monitored for COVID-19 symptoms. If any patient experiences a change in condition, we will follow our standard procedures and notify their family. Any partner (employee) experiencing COVID-19 symptoms contacts his/her health care provider and does not report to work.”

Buckley says it is following infection control recommendations, including proper hand-washing techniques, social distancing and wearing masks, gowns and gloves when caring for any symptomatic patients.”

Additionally, Buckley says is taking the appropriate steps to communicate with those who may have come in contact with the patients who tested positive as well as restricting all visits to the center from non-essential personnel.

Charlene Manor Extended Care Facility

Charlene Manor Extended Care Facility on Colrain Road in Greenfield, owned by Berkshire HealthCare in Pittsfield, has also not responded to multiple calls throughout the week, including several to Lisa Gaudet, its vice president of business development and marketing, on Friday morning. It is not clear if there have been any cases there to date, and it does not appear the company provides that information on its website.

According to its website, “Berkshire Healthcare has been monitoring the evolving worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and preparing for the safety and well-being of our residents, staff and visitors at all our affiliates Massachusetts.

“We have implemented protocols and precautionary measures based upon the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our team continues to closely monitor our affiliates for any signs of the virus and we are providing ongoing education and resources.”

The company said on its website that it is reinforcing infection control processes and emergency preparedness plans already in effect.

It also said it regularly monitors residents and staff and “encourages and supports staff to remain home when sick.” It has also limited or canceled large group activities and maintains “regular communication with residents, families and staff.”

Reach Anita Fritz at: 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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