Senior Care at Holland Lake officials discussed what the COVID-19 pandemic has been like inside their facility, saying it has been a struggle and sometimes a nightmare.

Rhonda Edwards, director of nurses at Senior Care at Holland Lake, addressed the Parker County commissioners court Monday morning.

“I think what [the commissioners] need to understand about our facilities is that sometimes it’s been a nightmare. We have been locked down since March and our patients have suffered. They’ve had no outside contact with anyone,” Edwards said. “The regulations change sometimes not just week-to-week but day-to-day. Our COVID manuals went from one manual to two four-inch manuals. We are having to fight to get PPE in our building sometimes and we are looking for resources — it’s not just us, this is nationwide, so we are struggling.”

Last Thursday, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced limited visitation rules for longterm care facilities as well as enhanced emergency rules requiring additional actions by nursing facilities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to a release by THHS.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are constantly assessing what actions are necessary to keep residents and staff safe in these facilities,” THHS Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson said in the release. “By following these procedures and rules, facilities can more effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help us achieve our shared goal of reuniting residents with their families and friends.”

But Edwards said visitation won’t happen anytime soon.

“There are many things that have to take place before we can do visitation. We have to have weekly testing in place for our staff, we don’t even have the items needed for that and it’s going to be a very costly thing — it’s about $25 to $30 a test and you’re looking at 100 employees a week for our facility,” Edwards said. “We have to have no positive COVID cases in our building — either residents or staff — for the past 14 days, so if we have a positive case come up that shuts down visitation immediately. Visitation has to take place outside, it has to be by appointment, it has to be monitored, and so it’s going to be several weeks before visitation is able to start. 

“Our patients on our quarantine unit will not be allowed to do the visitation because they cannot come off of the unit, so those patients that are in that quarantine for 14 days will be there for 14 days and will not be included in any visitation.”

As of July 22, three Parker County nursing homes saw increases in COVID-19 numbers, including active cases and deaths. Senior Care at Holland Lake reported zero active cases among its residents and staff as of July 24, with just two total employee cases since reporting began with THHS.

Parker County Judge Pat Deen issued an emergency order pertaining to longterm care facilities on July 28, which was extended Monday morning by unanimous vote for an additional 90 days.

“The whole concern of this has been to protect those most vulnerable,” Deen said. “Where there are gaps and we’ve found exposure, this tightens that up a little bit but does not have any impact whatsoever in opening up for visitation.”

The order requires all longterm care facilities in Parker County to conduct full decontamination of the facility after two positive COVID-19 cases or more. The order also requires any facility isolate a new resident for no less than 14 days and ensure the resident does not come into contact with any other facility residents; requires a resident to isolate for no less than 14 days following a trip to the emergency room or other reasons for being out of the facility overnight no matter what the reason is or the symptoms the resident has; and requires a resident to isolate for no less than 10 days if they have COVID-19.

“We did have a facility that had an issue with bringing in a new resident so this kind of delineates and cleans up what these facilities are supposed to do and we’ll continue to monitor these facilities as they open up for visitors as well,” Parker County Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes said. “What we’re hearing in Parker County is some of the facilities appreciate [this order] because it allows them to do things in a more positive manner than their corporate policy. It’s some things they’d rather do that maybe their corporate policy won’t let them. One example of that is their corporate policy is four positive cases and our [order] is two before they have to completely clean the building, so that’s one of the examples we heard.”

The county order overrides corporate nursing home rules.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden said the order can be amended at any time.

“The good thing about the order we have is that it can be changed at any time, amended, so if there’s something that we can do to help, that’s what we’re here for,” Walden said.

The county will continue to work closely with longterm care facilities to assess needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that we’re just asking for a voice at the table in some of this discussion because people have no idea the work — the 10, the 12, the 13-hour days — in trying to keep these people safe and the struggles that we’re going through are real,” Edwards said. “We can’t keep these facilities locked down like this, it’s just not practical. We’re doing a lot of harm to this generation of elders, so we’ve got to find a way to work together to keep them safe, but yet we’re doing damage to them.”

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