Going forward in fighting the pandemic, Geisinger plans to use funding from the state’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to continue partnering with skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in the northeast and northcentral regions of Pennsylvania, especially focusing on fighting an expected resurgence of cases.

“We all know that COVID isn’t gone,” said Janet Tomcavage, Chief Nursing Executive at Geisinger. “Till we have immunity, we’ve got to figure out how to manage this.”

Part of managing the coronavirus is learning what does and doesn’t work, and sifting through the ever-evolving controversies and recommendations.

“We’ve used our infectious disease doctors, specialists and hospitalists to look at the literature critically to find out what’s the best possible advice we can give doctors,” said Dr. Greg Burke, Medical Director of the Skilled Nursing Facilities Program at Geisinger. “We made that available to anyone who wants it.”

Working on a number of topics related to infection control practices, Evangelical Community Hospital, in Lewisburg, collaborated with several skilled nursing facilities that care for a most vulnerable population.

“The Hospital and these facilities worked together to provide care as it related specifically to long-term care patients under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Health Department,” said Tamara Persing, RN, BSN, MS, CIC, FAPIC, Vice President of Patient Care Services, Chief Nursing Officer.

In fact, Emmanuel Home Personal Care, in Northumberland, posted a note of thanks on their Facebook page in July to Evangelical, saying in part, “We are thankful to have partnered with you to complete universal COVID-19 testing for our residents and staff at Emmanuel Home.” 

With Pennsylvania having a mortality rate of 60 to 61 percent for COVID patients in nursing facilities, Tomcavage said hospitals and SNFs must work together.

“I think it’s just really critical that the community understands the relationship between caring for our older people in our community and how hospitals and nursing homes depend on each other,” she said. “I think this will really be important as we move forward.”

Denise Whitmire, Director of Nursing at The Gardens at Orangeville, noted how grateful her facility is to have had a longstanding partnership with Geisinger.

“Now, more than ever, it’s good to have someone to lean on as an extra support system,” she said.

“I’m just proud to be affiliated with Geisinger,” Burke said, “of how we were reaching out very early on to help this population of patients.”

n Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Send e-mail comments to her at CindyOHerman@gmail.com.

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