Texas Health Care Association provides update on protections of long term health care facilities against COVID-19 spread in Texas

The following was released by the Texas Health Care Association on Thursday, March 12.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Today, March 12th, 2020, the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) gave an update on their response efforts to COVID-19 and the threat it poses to long-term health care facilities. THCA released the following statement:
“THCA’s top priority right now is preventing COVID-19 from getting into long-term care facilities and stopping it from spreading if it does. THCA is coordinating efforts across the state to protect the most vulnerable to the impact of this virus – our elderly residents,” said Kevin Warren, President and CEO of THCA. “We are all still learning about COVID-19, but we do know that the frail and elderly are especially susceptible. Our long-term care providers on the national and state level are very concerned about this escalating issue and are taking it seriously. THCA is working closely with its national association, which proactively met with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the White House last week to ensure coordination moving forward.”

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THCA has strongly recommended that their long-term care providers prepare their facilities and staff by reviewing, updating, and implementing infection prevention and control plans, as well as emergency communication plans in accordance with CDC and local health departments. Additionally, we have recommended the following actions to help prevent the entry of COVID-19 into long-term care facilities regardless of whether or not it has been found in the surrounding community:
• Restricting entry into facilities to only individuals who absolutely need it
• Actively screening individuals entering the building and restricting entry to those with respiratory symptoms or with possible COVID-19 exposure
• Requiring mandatory hand washing for all individuals entering the building
• Restricting group activities and outings to public spaces
• Setting up processes to allow remote communication for residents and families to maintain connections during this time
• Prepare staff and reinforce that anyone that is sick should stay home.
THCA has heard from many providers about supply shortages of hand sanitizer, masks, and gowns, which could impact providers’ ability to handle a potential COVID-19 outbreak. THCA has been communicating with providers and suppliers about the availability of additional supplies; however, concern remains as resources are being used. Providers are being urged to communicate with their local health department if they are unable to acquire these needed supplies.
“It is more critical now than ever that Texas have a robust and healthy work force in our long-term healthcare facilities. Texas providers already have immense struggles with maintaining an adequate workforce and an outbreak amongst staff could be devastating to our ability to care for our residents,” continued Warren. “With this in mind, THCA is communicating with agency officials towards priority testing for our employees and our residents to quickly identify any potential risks.”
Finally, THCA strongly encourages facilities to review and update infection control plans and emergency communication plans. Follow CDC and local health department updates to be better prepared and equipped to prevent the spread and contain the spread of the virus.

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