Hospice and Palliative Care Provider Notes that Strict Adherence to Guidelines Has Kept Staff and Patients Free from Coronavirus Exposure

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – As the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Jersey and the governor issued stay-at-home orders, the Center for Hope Hospice and Palliative Care immediately went on strict lockdown to keep patients, their families and Center staff safe. Frank Brady, the Center’s president, said that safety measures already in place at the Center’s two residences, as well as those recently instituted, have not only had positive results in terms of avoiding coronavirus exposure, but are repositioning how hospice care is managed and provided.

“The pandemic has altered how we manage many aspects of care at our in-patient facilities as well as how we deliver hospice care in the community,” said Brady. “Given that we care for a medically fragile population, we took the situation very seriously from the start.”

With the coronavirus an ongoing and continuous challenge, some protocols the Center for Hope put in place will remain for the foreseeable future to protect the health of everyone there. “No one—no patients, visitors or staff—has been infected with the virus at our residences, which illustrates the importance of following safety guidelines diligently, and we urge others to do so,” said Brady.

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The Center provides hospice and palliative care in two residential facilities in Scotch Plains and Elizabeth as well as in the community where patients reside. Patients have always had private suites at the residences, which today has proven to be an important measure to mitigate risk of disease transmission. The organization receives, accepts and successfully cares for patients with known and/or suspected coronavirus infection. Strict isolation protocols have been implemented whether those patients are in their own home or in one of the Center’s residences.

Pandemic measures to safeguard patients, caregivers and visitors

At the start of the pandemic, the Center closed its administrative offices and transferred all operations remotely. The management team was reorganized into the Coronavirus Crisis Management Team to fully address the impacts of the virus. The securing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct care staff, such as N95 filtration face masks for personnel working in the facilities, was a top priority. This essential procurement continues, thanks in large part to donors and partners who support the organization.

Other ways direct hospice care at the Center has changed include:

  • Restricted visitation – Window visits have become commonplace and outdoor visits with social distancing are permitted where practical. The Center has invested in a comprehensive video visiting program which is in the process of being installed.  Once complete, it will provide all patients with the opportunity to remotely visit with loved ones as desired. This policy has been instituted for the health and safety of both patients and staff. “Video visits bring a measure of comfort and connection to patients and their loved ones within the new reality COVID-19 has brought,” said Brady. “Our normal visitation policy will return when it becomes viable.”
  • Admissions – All new patients are presumed to be positive for the virus, which provides an added layer of protection. Instead of being directly admitted to a residence, they are now admitted to recently re-designated units for a quarantine period of 14 days.
  • Supplemental Human Resources – Added extra nurses to its Patient Response System to ensure that the traditional response, no matter what time of the day or night, would not be diminished, further helping the Center maintain its 24/7 services.
  • Face masks – The Center distributes face masks to every patient and caregiver in the community, to be worn whenever Center personnel enters the home, regardless of the presence of symptoms or confirmation of infectious status. Personnel who work or travel between both Center campuses are also provided with personal protective equipment for use at each campus site, to minimize potential cross-contamination.
  • Health screenings – The Center enforces affirmative daily health monitoring of all staff reporting to work in its facilities and in the field. Infection control policies incorporate COVID-19 testing for staff and patients and clarify the standards for both isolating and clearing them based on current CDC guidance. In addition, patients are screened ahead of every visit for signs of infection. Volunteers are assisting with screening phone calls to free up the nursing staff for primary care matters.
  • Tele-health (with video) and telecommunications visits and contacts with patients in the field wherever appropriate and with the express consent of the patient and their physician.
  • Plexiglas barriers have been installed at the reception areas of both facilities to reduce transmission risk.
  • E-menu support eliminates paper menus, allows remote review and approval by the Center’s registered dietitians, and enhances the food service team’s ability to identify food allergies and ensure patients are offered appropriate choices for their given clinical conditions.

“The staff has stepped up admirably to carry out our work to provide dignity and comfort care at the end of people’s lives amid the pressures of the pandemic,” noted Brady. “We believe that the future of hospice care delivery is already here, with major protections in place to ensure the best outcomes for all involved. Diligent continuation of extra staffing, abundant PPE, proactive health measures, and new ways to support our patients and their families must continue as the pandemic enters its chronic phase.”

For more information about the Center for Hope, visit www.cfhh.org.

About Center for Hope Hospice & Palliative Care, Inc.
Center for Hope is a non-profit, community-based organization that provides terminally ill patients with hospice care, and their families or loved ones with physical, emotional, and spiritual support during their time of need. Center for Hope actively supports the individual's right to live out the remainder of their life with dignity and in comfort, surrounded by the love of family and friends, and eased from the burdens of physical, emotional, spiritual, financial or social distress.​ The facility welcomes all terminally ill patients, their families and loved ones without concern for race, ethnicity, religious affiliation or ability to pay. It also offers pain and symptom management for chronically ill and seriously ill patients through its palliative care program. Center for Hope operates two facilities in Scotch Plains and Elizabeth; the latter provides nearly $3.5 million a year in charity care. For more information, visit www.cfhh.org.