Almost a month ago, officials at Bear Valley Community Hospital began planning how to handle the mandates issued by the state and the potential surge of COVID-19 cases in the community. Part of that plan includes how to protect the most venerable population at the hospital — the residents of the skilled nursing facility.
John Friel, CEO at Bear Valley Community Hospital, said if one COVID-19 patient was admitted to the hospital the potential for spreading the disease is high. The facility is one story and shares a ventilation system, Friel said.
The 13 residents of the skilled nursing facility will be moved temporarily to Camp Oakes in Lake William to create a safer environment for the patients and free up space at the hospital for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases. The camp is part of the YMCA of Long Beach family.
Friel said staff had been researching a possible site to house the SNF patients when the director of Camp Oakes reached out wanting to help. Kerri Jex, chief nursing officer for the hospital, and her team visited the site. The camp has a kitchen, is on one floor, has the ability to isolate a patient if needed and the rooms are large enough to house hospital beds. It’s a good place to move patients, Friel said.
Christine Onufrak, director of nursing for Bear Valley Healthcare District, said supplies will be moved first, then beds, then patients. Most of the patients will be transported via a van, and two will need medical transport, Onufrak said.
There are 35 staff members who are assigned to the SNF unit to provide 27/7 care. This includes mostly nursing staff, Onufrak said. But it also includes dietary and housekeeping as well as Dr. Cary Stewart, who will visit regularly.
None of the skilled nursing facility residents have shown any symptoms of COVID-19. Visitation to the SNF patients, as well as other areas of the hospital, was suspended some time ago when the COVID-19 emergency began. In certain circumstances, end of life visitation is considered. The same rules regarding visitation will be followed at the Camp Oakes site. Onufrak said the separation has been hard on residents, but harder of the families. The residents see the staff daily and the nurses and others are like extended family for the patients, she said.
Protocols to screen patients and staff members will continue at Camp Oakes when patients are transferred. Every employee is screened at the start of his or her shift, and patients are screened regularly. If a SNF patient presents any symptoms, he or she is isolated right away, and if hospitalization is required, the patient will be transferred back to BVCHD, Onufrak said.
It’s unknown how long the SNF patients will be housed at Camp Oakes. The relationship is month to month, Jex said. They won’t return to the main hospital until it’s safe to do so, she said.