Hillside Wake Forest ranks third in NC nursing home deaths

From WSJ Staff Reports

Hillside Nursing Center in Wake Forest has added another resident to be diagnosed with COVID-19, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported this week.

Hillside ranks third in the state in nursing homes being tracked by DHHS in resident deaths out of roughly 200 homes being tracked. Maple Grove Health and Rehabilitation Center in Guilford County ranks as the top in resident deaths at 22, and the N.C. State Veterans Nursing Home has 20 deaths in the second highest resident deaths reported. Resident cases at these two facilities are 96 and 54 respectively.

Nineteen residents have died from Coronavirus at Hillside since mid-June, with 67 resident cases and 10 staff cases reported.

Representatives at Hillside have declined comment.

DHHS has taken steps in the last two weeks to protect nursing home residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic by requiring biweekly staff testing in an order and announcing continued state funding for staff testing through November. The order mandates the existing recommendation for biweekly testing. The department is also deploying additional infection control support teams to support ongoing efforts to help long-term care facilities prevent and manage outbreaks.

“North Carolina nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection,” DHSS Secretary Mandy Cohen said. “These additional testing and infection control resources enhance the ongoing work to guide and support long-term care facilities as they take extraordinary measures to protect residents and staff during COVID-19.”

Residents are at heightened risk for serious illness from COVID-19 and the communal nature of long-term care facilities can make it difficult to control a COVID-19 outbreak, Cohen said.

In July, NCDHHS conducted baseline testing of residents and staff in North Carolina’s nursing homes with an expectation of completing close to 50,000 tests. Moving forward, the order requires all nursing home staff to be retested for COVID-19 every other week in facilities without a confirmed case. Existing guidance requires nursing home staff to be tested weekly if a COVID-19 case has been detected. Facilities will be required to report all test results, and North Carolina will use federal CARES Act funding to help fund testing through November.

Other measures North Carolina has taken to protect residents and staff in long-term facilities, including:

  • Mandating staff to wear surgical masks.
  • Providing more than 3,500 long-term care facilities with 2-week supply of personal protective equipment to give them time to build their supply network.
  • Helping to fill staffing shortages in long-term care facilities and other health care facilities through a partnership with East Carolina University School of Nursing to match Registered Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants with facilities, particularly long-term care facilities, seeking to urgently hire staff for temporary, part-time or full-time roles. 
  • Conducting remote infection prevention and control consultation with skilled nursing and other long-term facilities across the state through a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Statewide Program for Infection Control and Epidemiology.
  • Providing targeted funding to support nursing homes and adult care homes to provide the intensive care needed for residents with COVID-19 and limit the spread of the virus to other residents and staff. 
  • Providing a toolkit to support long-term care facilities in preparing for and responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in their facility. The toolkit contains an infection control assessment, infection staffing worksheet, infection prevention educational resources and other tools. 
  • Implementing several temporary regulatory changes to assist providers in caring for their residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, including adopting an emergency rule granting reciprocity to nurse aides certified in other states to work as nurse aides in North Carolina and allowing facilities to exceed the number of licensed beds if needed to provide temporary shelter and services to adequately care for residents with COVID-19. 
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