Halstead nursing homes restrict visitors due to COVID-19

By Jared Janzen

HALSTEAD—Homestead of Halstead and Halstead Health and Rehab have both implemented a new visitation policy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Only essential visitors are allowed into either facility, which means someone actively providing medical care. Social visits do not qualify.

Ali Ellis is marketing director for Midwest Health, the organization that owns both facilities in Halstead as well as 63 other facilities in the region. She said the new visitation policy was implemented at all of their facilities based on recommendation from the Center for Disease Control and the American Healthcare Association.

The restrictions went into effect Wednesday, and Ellis said she expected it to remain in place for the next several weeks.

This is the first time in Midwest Health’s 41-year history that such an action has been taken.

“This is unprecedented, but something we feel is necessary,” Ellis said.

She noted that highest mortality rates from COVID-19 are among people older than 80, and the median age of residents at their facilities is 82.

“It could be catastrophic if it gets in our buildings,” Ellis said.

Essential visitors who are allowed inside must go through a screening process first where they’re asked several questions as to whether they’ve had a fever or other symptoms recently.

Ellis said the visitor restrictions were not a decision made lightly, but with news of several deaths at a nursing home in Washington, it became “a no-brainer.”

In addition to the visitor restrictions, Ellis said their facilities have been implementing other protocols to mitigate the spread of potential infection. Staff have been trained and retrained in the past several weeks on proper hand-washing, and they’ve added more signage reminding people to do so. They’ve also been undergoing extra cleaning protocol. Hand sanitizer stations have been set up by entrances, and people are encouraged to use them when they enter or exit.

In the event that COVID-19 does strike Harvey County, Ellis said there was little else that Homestead of Halstead or Halstead Health and Rehab could do in addition to what they’re already preparing for.

“This is really as strict as we can get,” Ellis said. “We can’t limit entry of health care professionals, because that’s why these people live with us.”

The only further action she suggested was if a resident had been transported to an at-risk hospital, that person may then be returned to a quarantine facility rather than their normal home facility. However, this protocol has not necessary yet, she said.

Ellis did note that the risk in Kansas is still relatively low compared to states on the coast.