A weekly report from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) shows 30 residents at The Springs at Batesville nursing home are infected with the COVID-19 virus. Ten employees at the facility have also tested positive for the illness, according to the report. ADH guidelines allow nursing home workers who test positive to take care of positive residents located in a dedicated COVID-19 positive area, as long as they are not symptomatic with fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

Concerned family members, who didn’t want to be named because of fear of retribution to their loved ones, said residents are being transferred to Hall 2, which is “the COVID unit” before family members are notified.

“When I was there they had four aides for 90 residents. You tell me how four people are supposed to take care of 90.”

The Springs at Batesville Administrator Brittney DeVazier, referred our questions to Rachel Bunch, executive director at the Arkansas Health Care Association, which represents 95 percent of all healthcare facilities in Arkansas.

The Daily Guard will publish those responses when they are received.

The Daily Guard has asked numerous questions including how many residents the facility has and if it is being fully staffed with nurses, aides, and other workers as well ased what the facility’s plans to do if there is a staffing shortage, how they communicate with families, and how they help residents stay connected to loved ones, such as phone calls and video visits.

On Aug. 25, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced regulatory changes that require nursing homes to test staff and offer testing to residents for COVID-19.

The press release reads:

“CMS now requires that nursing homes will offer tests to residents when there is an outbreak or residents show symptoms. This is part of CMS’ continued efforts to help nursing homes to control the spread of the virus. The Administration is holding nursing homes accountable for the testing requirement by directing surveyors to inspect nursing homes for adherence to the new testing requirements. Facilities that do not comply with the new requirements will be cited for non-compliance and may face enforcement sanctions based on the severity of the noncompliance, such as civil money penalties in

excess of $400 per day, or over $8,000 for an instance of noncompliance.”

Family members have said this brings little comfort to those worried overwhelmed staff may not be providing adequate care for residents who suffer from memory problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and need close supervision.

Another worry for concerned family members is physical harm from other patients, since ADH guidelines allow COVID-positive residents to be housed in the same room. For example, a combative, COVID-positive resident could harm a bedridden resident or other COVID- positive combative residents if placed in the same room. This puts overworked staff at risk for injury. Additionally, moving residents can cause confusion, even in those without diagnosed memory problems.

The Aug. 25 CMS press release also notes some important changes in just who will get paid for performing a COVID test. People on Medicare can get “one test without the order of a physician or other health practitioner, but Medicare will require such an order for all further COVID-19 tests.CMS is also paying for tests when ordered by a pharmacist or other healthcare professional authorized under applicable state law to order diagnostic laboratory tests.”

The press release says this will help make sure Medicare recipients are able to get multiple tests, while eliminating fraudulent billing or unnecessary tests.

Once a resident is found to have the virus, they cannot be transferred to another nursingome. According to ADH guidance, when there is a positive test result in a facility, residents and employees should be monitored or screened three times a day for symptoms.Residents can return to the general population of a nursing home after 21 days from onset of symptoms or date of test result, if their symptoms improve, such as no fever in 24-hours without using fever-reducing medication.

ADH testing guidance recommends all residents and workers be tested at the same time, however If testing supplies are limited, testing is then prioritized to staff who are assigned to the hallway of a positive resident or had close contact with the infected, all other residents, then all other staff.

Staff who are identified as close contacts and have pending tests are told to fully quarantine when not at work, but that can be difficult for single parents, large multi-generational families, and others who have demanding situations away from work.

The Springs at Batesville has 150 Medicaid/Medicare beds, according to state data. It is operated by Batesville Healthcare LLC.

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