RI Health Association asks for help as COVID-19 cases rise in nursing homes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – As cases of COVID-19 rise in Rhode Island, so do cases inside nursing homes.

Governor Gina Raimondo announced four additional coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday, bringing the state’s total deaths to 8. Of those 8, three were residents of nursing homes.

“Our main goal is to keep COVID-19 out of our homes. We are concerned for the health of our residents, we’re concerned for the health of our staff.”

Scott Fraser, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Association, put out a call for help Tuesday, saying nursing homes are in immediate need of workers and personal protective equipment.

“Obviously the COVID-19 virus can spread very very rapidly once it gets into a nursing home.”

Fraser said the association is asking for three things: Pre-admission testing, more staffing, and more safety equipment.

“Right now, we are struggling to secure the testing, workers and equipment we need to move through this pandemic,” said Fraser.

Of the more than 80 nursing homes in the state, the Rhode Island Health Association represents 64 of them.

The association is urging the Department of Health to conduct tests on hospital patients before they are placed into a nursing home facility. Currently, hospital admissions to nursing homes are not tested for COVID-19, Fraser said.

“For now, it takes days to get a response back, and our concern is taking somebody into a nursing home that might be COVID-19 positive.”

They’re also asking for additional staff as positive cases in nursing homes rise.

“We know if this gets into one of our homes, and we know it has gotten into a couple of facilities, but if it spreads, staff will be quarantined and there will be a staff shortage,” said Fraser.

As of Tuesday afternoon, RIDOH said there were 15 positive cases across three nursing homes. Two residents at Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence had died of the virus, and one resident at Oak Hill Center in Pawtucket.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott from RIDOH said at Tuesday’s press conference that there were groups of positive cases at both facilities.

To address staffing issues, Fraser said RIHCA has asked the state to provide access to National Guard medical workers or retired medical workers to fill the gaps.

In addition to testing and staffing, they’re also requesting more personal protective equipment for nursing home staff.

“We encourage any local company that might have access even to small amounts of PPE, to drop it at your local nursing home. Nursing home workers are on the frontline of this fight,” Fraser said.

Despite the issues, Fraser said nursing homes are doing the best they can, and wants families to know their loved ones are in good hands.

“I can assure you that our staffers are doing all we can for your loved ones to keep them safe. I’ve visited many, many of our homes and I can tell you that our staff treats your loved ones like their own loved ones.”

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Categories: Coronavirus, News