Gov. Eric Holcomb
(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

ISDH to Boost Effort to Prevent COVID in Nursing Homes, Plug Staff Shortages

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana is sending coronavirus reinforcements to nursing homes.

Starting in November, National Guard troops will help out with data entry and administrative tasks so regular staff have more breathing room to tend to residents. Governor Holcomb says the Guard will begin with facilities which have already had coronavirus cases, but will eventually help with all the facilities statewide. Holcomb says they’ll supply help at least through the end of the year.

The Indiana State Department of Health has nearly completed a three-week inspection tour of all the state’s nearly 600 nursing homes. Holcomb and ISDH chief medical officer Lindsay Weaver say the tour has shown a need to beef up infection-prevention measures. The state will send additionnal shipments of sanitizer medical-grade masks.

Weaver says the department will also tap a health care reserve force to help with infection-control training. The department recruited retired health care professionals six months ago to make themselves available to help with staffing shortages at hospitals and nursing homes. Weaver says using the reserve force will give the department the resources to conduct site visits three times a week, to train staffers in infection protocols and offer advice on how to improve.

Weaver says as cases have risen over the last month, more facilities have been turning to the reserve force, with 11 requests this week. She says health care professionals have been stretched thin by both the flood of cases and shortages created when workers exposed to the virus have to quarantine.

“They are exhausted,” Weaver says. “They’ve been running a marathon at a sprint pace for eight months, and the human body isn’t designed to maintain such a pace.”

Nearly three out of five Indiana COVID deaths have been nursing home residents. Holcomb says it was clear from the start they’d be at high risk due to age and underlying health conditions. He says stemming the tide in nursing homes should also reduce the spread in the community and take pressure off hospitals.

13 nursing home staffers have also died of the virus.

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