WASHINGTON — After landing on the outbreak list on April 7, the McCreedy Home in Washington has overcome its outbreak status.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) an outbreak is defined as having more than three residents test positive for the virus. The McCreedy Home, a long-term care facility owned and operated by the Washington County Hospital and Clinics (WCHC), located at 400 East Polk Street, was removed earlier this week after officially having no new cases of COVID-19 in staff or residents for 28 days.
At the first sign of the pandemic in March 2020, WCHC CEO Todd Patterson said administration and staff were, like the public, confused but immediately took action to accomplish their goal of keeping staff and residents healthy.
“I think there was so much uncertainty with what the virus was capable of and I also think there was some denial, but we were doing fairly radical things within our organization that we don’t normally do and did them very quickly. It was just a little bit surreal,” he said.
In early March, all visitor and vendor traffic was stopped, communal dining was put on hold and new methods for delivering meals were developed, he said. These changes were made before the federal mandate as the administration felt it was in the best interest of all involved to act as quickly as possible.
“All of that seemed kind of radical and uncomfortable at the time, but in retrospect, I think we did all the right things,” he said.
At the McCreedy Home there are 43 beds with the majority of them being in shared rooms, he said. Residents were put into isolation after cases were discovered in order to separate the COVID-19 positive individuals from the COVID-19 negative to try and stop the spread. In all, the McCreedy Home had less than 10 active cases at once and a total of 28 all together, he said.
“We took the aggressive step of testing all of our residents early on. With that we found residents that were positive who were asymptomatic so that added to our positivity total even though they were not actively sick at that time,” he said. Those individuals were still put into isolation.
McCreedy Home Long Term Care Administrator Jacob Green said staff was notified immediately of the outbreak status and briefed daily.
“We stepped up to the plate and faced the challenge head on. It was a challenge trying to keep people safe, but they responded very well,” he said.
Increased PPE (personal protective equipment) was provided for all staff which included surgical masks, face shields, gloves, gowns and shoe covers. Patterson said these added items made an already difficult job more difficult, but staff took it in stride in order to put residents first.
“It’s already a physically demanding job. To do that with uncomfortable clothing on ... makes a tough job tougher,” he said.
Green agreed, saying another difficulty was communicating the new restrictions with residents who are used to being able to dine together and participate in group activities.
“We let them know what the procedures were going to be and why. Initially it was a big change, but we explained to them why we were having to do those things and they understood,” he said.
Although the changes may have seemed extreme, Patterson said they were all necessary in order to keep residents and staff as safe as possible.
“Our goal all along has been to protect our patients and in the case of McCreedy Home, to protect our residents. The over arching goal also has been to make sure we have adequate protections in place for our employees,” he said. “I think our commitment has been to the safety of our employees, residents and patients.”
In early April the McCreedy Home had its first case and the first three, earning the facility the outbreak status, were confirmed in a news release April 7. Patterson said from the minute the first case was discovered, staff was in contact with the IDPH and a daily conference was held with IDPH employees once the outbreak status was confirmed.
“Every single case we had that was either negative or positive we were reporting to IDPH,” he said.
Green said family members of residents were notified immediately following the outbreak status.
Patterson said it is not known how the virus first made its way into the facility but the speculation behind the spread is that there could have been active cases within the facility before they were confirmed. With shared rooms and public dining the norm, the virus could have been unintentionally spread, he said.
However, immediate changes were put into effect upon the discovery of the virus such as full PPE for all residents and staff and redirecting the air flow patterns of resident rooms, he said.
Green added residents were screened at least once a shift to ensure no new respiratory problems arose. Patterson said that although the changes were drastic and challenging, they are what he credits to the facility being able to overcome the outbreak status.
“I think we were able to limit the spread ultimately and I think we were able to get over that active period faster,” he said.