Today’s update will focus on the effects of the Omicron variant and what it means to our staff and residents.
First, the good news is that the positivity rate in Lancaster County is plunging. As of today, the positivity rate is 25.61%. Several weeks ago, we were above 40%. The declining rate translates into improving hospital data as well. The charts below compare LGH/Penn Medicine COVID hospitalizations from January 3 versus January 31.
LANCASTER GENERAL HOSPITAL
LANCASTER GENERAL HOSPITAL
Note the hospitalization numbers have reduced from 121 to 87. Patients on ventilators declined from 23 to 16. I watch the ICU numbers and the ventilator numbers. Only one patient on a ventilator has been vaccinated; this statistic brings me comfort.
The Omicron variant has taken its toll on our staff. We have had many staff test positive with county-wide positivity rates over 40% two weeks ago. Thus far, all have had minor symptoms and continue returning to work. However, having further reductions in staff available has proven challenging. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released return to work guidelines last month. As a result, Moravian Manor Communities (MMC) has been operating under the “Contingency” level for the past month. The Contingency level allows workers who have tested positive to return to work sooner. It has been a great help. See the chart below to understand the implications of Contingency level staffing.
Our returning staff are required to use appropriate PPE. In January, we have had 29 staff test positive. During this time, we have had six residents test positive. MMC had one resident pass away from COVID-related pneumonia during this time.
We continue to vaccinate our staff and residents, and booster clinics are offered regularly by Phoebe Pharmacy. In addition, MMC requires all new employees to be vaccinated. Reading multiple sources of literature on the pandemic, I believe that we will continue to learn to live with COVID as the pandemic transitions to an endemic. It would appear the key to this transition is directly related to vaccinations.
Our care areas continue to be a challenge to operate with reduced staff. MMC’s skilled nursing area is limited to 75 residents. We would prefer this to be 95. Two years of working in health care during a pandemic has taken its toll on our staff. We have some of our team on leaves for reasons other than COVID. I wonder if there is a correlation?
Our Wellness Center (Baer Center for Assisted Living) is the response center for our Residential Living call bells. Given our staffing shortage, our LPN’s are unable to physically respond to those call bells, at this time. A member of our security team or maintenance team will continue to respond to your calls, and/or a triage system may take place over the phone versus a physical visit. However, please understand, a physical response will be from non-medical personnel, maintenance or security versus nursing staff. Our directive has not changed. If you are suffering from a possible acute health care crisis, call 911 immediately. In a health crisis (i.e., stroke), time matters. Our response system is not designed to take the place of 911. Fortunately, most of our calls are not serious. However, some are and we want you to know the proper procedure.
We continue to explore ways to provide service with fewer team members. Our service areas most acutely affected by staffing are the clinical areas and dining services. We have increased our dining hours with the introduction of a buffet. Buffet service will occur in the Owls Nest and Garden Court Dining Room. This modified service reduces the need for staffing and provides an opportunity for residents to break bread and enjoy each other’s company. Residents have positively received the buffet format.
Earlier today our maintenance team ran two fire drills. Those of us who are not immediate responders are to report to a central area. As the employees gathered, the noise level got to the point where we could not hear the two-way radio. It was not the noise of the fire alarms. It was the noise of people connecting. While it was inappropriate in that setting, it was music to my ears.
Continue to find ways to connect with others. We all need Human interaction, which is essential for our emotional and spiritual health. Thank you for your continued support as we muddle through these challenges!