Like many hospitals in the region and around the county found, Phase I of the COVID-19 pandemic strained hospitals. They faced surge capacity and the inability to admit or readmit patients to skilled nursing facilities (SNF). Simultaneously, skilled nursing facilities were charged with protecting seniors – the most vulnerable population affected by the virus.
SNFs were challenged in various ways to even care for their own residents who began testing positive in high numbers from a staffing standpoint, the lack of ability to isolate due to physical plant challenges, and due to a dangerously low shortage of PPE industry-wide. As a result, many of SOHO’s post-acute facilities were forced to send positive residents to emergency departments, overwhelming the already stressed hospitals.
Within the SOHO HEALTH network, actions were taken to help mitigate some of the placement challenges and open the lines of communication with partner facilities. Weekly COVID update calls were launched with SOHO HEALTH management, Trinity Health Of New England (THOfNE) case management, and SNFs across the region.
The calls helped alleviate some of the tension occurring with all parties as they focused on battling the crisis. THOfNE hospitals were able to hear the SNF’s challenges and vice versa, allowing for open dialogue and collaboration. Together all parties brainstormed better ways to care for the SNF population across the care continuum.
As we enter Phase II of the COVID-19 crisis, lessons learned from earlier experiences will help navigate this pandemic. To that end, SOHO HEALTH leads the charge to re-open dialogue with THOfNE hospitals and SNF partners. COVID update calls have launched earlier in the crisis, prior to phase 2 reaching surge capacity.
The first call was held the same day St. Mary’s hospital struggled to place COVID-positive residents from an area Assisted Living Facility (ALF) unable to readmit the residents due to inability to isolate. A large portion of the COVID-19 calls is structured to allow each SNF to communicate their current COVID-19 acceptance protocols, which essentially change minute-by-minute due to bed availability and other variable factors.
As a result of this integrated communication, the skilled nursing facilities had a channel to share their acceptance protocol within the network. Some were able and willing to make room changes and do whatever possible to help. The outcome being St. Mary’s case management was able to discharge all of the COVID positive residents who were transferred to their ED from the ALF that same day to area SNF’s.
Open and ongoing communication within the network is key, beneficial for all parties. Hospitals have the necessary information to place SNF patients and SNF partners have the outlet to express any difficulties they may be facing and to cultivate open discussion gearing toward identifying resolutions to challenges.
Amanda Schutz, LNHA is Regional Manager, Post-Acute Care at SOHO HEALTH