As a care-giving organization, the death of each and every person for whom we are privileged to care for is as personal to us as it is to the families and loved ones. While we welcome efforts to bring light to the tragedy of COVID-19, reducing the battle against this pandemic to a simple tally of lives lost does a disservice to many. Most importantly to the families who have ongoing relationships with senior care and housing facilities and the dedicated employees who are on the front lines each day providing the highest level of care and service to this community’s most frail and compromised. Among other things missing from the discussion are facility-specific variables such as: approaches to advance directives, admissions of COVID-19 positive patients from the community and area hospital partners, and testing standards.
Advance Directives – Not all providers have the same approach to palliative and end of life care. Wartburg is always proactive in working with residents and their families on advance directives including medical orders related to resuscitation, hospitalization, artificial ventilation and other palliative care issues. During this COVID-19 pandemic, Wartburg’s physicians and social workers ensure that every effort is made to have supportive discussions and honor these very personal wishes. While this approach may elevate mortality figures, fulfilling residents’ advance care planning directives is a responsibility we take seriously.
Admissions of COVID-19 Patients – Throughout this pandemic, hospital capacity has been a well documented concern. Wartburg has received COVID-19 positive patients from area hospital partners as it was inconceivable to close our doors to anyone, including people infected with the virus. We did this following all Department Of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control infection control guidelines. Of those admitted from the hospital, some have been or will be discharged home, some have become long term residents, and some have expired in the nursing home as a result of the virus but based upon the patients advance directives for care and treatment. Despite the inclusion of COVID-19 positive admissions in our mortality figures, we believe admission of these patients does not reflect negatively on the quality of care delivered.
Testing – A final point is that absent a vaccine or treatment: we believe the ability to prevent the spread of COVID-19 hinges on testing, and not all facilities follow the same testing protocol as Wartburg. Since testing was available in the region, Wartburg has remained steadfastly committed to testing as many residents as available testing supplies will allow, even after DOH no longer recommended testing residents for COVID-19 in nursing homes and adult care facilities as there was sustained community transmission. Although identifying COVID-19 positive vs. presumed COVID-19 through testing may elevate the reporting of COVID-19 mortality figures, testing allows Wartburg to make informed decisions on the best treatments and precautions needed to be taken in the care of its residents.
Our deepest sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have passed away from the COVID-19 virus. This virus disproportionately and virulently affected those in our community of advanced age and frailty and we are deeply saddened by the collective loss. We are heartened that at this time the number of new positive cases is decreasing, many long term residents are recovering from the virus, and some post-acute patients are returning home. Also, staff who have been sick are returning to service. This gives us hope. We are grateful for the overwhelming community appreciation for the courageous care giving staff who worked under unprecedented physically and emotionally challenging circumstances. The gratitude for their passion, commitment, and continued service will be everlasting.