Posted 3/20/2020. Please read on for updates since then.
Like so many other community organizations, Lake Sunapee Region VNA & Hospice (LSRVNA) is working hard to meet the daily challenges of COVID-19 throughout the 32 towns it serves. On any given day under normal circumstances, LSRVNA has an average of 625 people on service receiving home health, hospice, palliative and private care, and the agency is adapting every day to meet the needs of those patients—as well as its staff—safely and effectively. Following are some of the ways in which the agency is responding:
- Monitoring the rapidly changing daily flow of information and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services regarding personal protective equipment, testing, screening protocols, etc.
- Limiting exposure among its 200 staff members by having the majority of office staff work from home and reducing the need for field staff to go to the office by holding virtual team meetings and calling ahead for medical supplies. According to Jim Culhane, President & CEO, “Home health care is by design a very mobile and adaptable business, which gives us at least a small advantage in meeting the challenges of COVID-19.”
- Closing all non-essential services for the safety of everyone involved and to focus on essential patient care services. Non-essential services that have been closed at least through the end of April include blood pressure clinics, foot care clinics, support groups, education programs, Good Day Respite, and The Renaissance Shoppe. Culhane shares, “While these are very important services that we provide to the communities we serve, we need to maximize and focus our resources on the programs that are designed to help people with illness and injury, specifically our home care, hospice and palliative care programs. In addition, we will continue to focus on the programs that are the sole service that prevents patients from moving into nursing facilities, such as Medicaid CFI, private duty services and some of our grants.”
- Screening all patients by phone for COVID-19 symptoms before going into the home and again during each visit.
- Developing contingency plans to shift resources as hospitals get busier and the demand for home care increases. “Many of our staff have foregone planned vacations and travel in order to minimize personal risk, as well as risk to coworkers and patients, and maximize our availability to meet the growing health care needs of the community,” says Culhane.
- Educating patients who may be concerned about receiving home visits about CDC guidelines for minimizing risk and various options for care, such as less frequent visits and additional phone calls.
- Communicating with community partners, such as the Upper Valley and Greater Sullivan County public health networks, area hospitals and other health and human service agencies, to share information and resources. “Many of us work together regularly on emergency preparedness efforts to train and prepare for all types of unexpected events, and those plans and relationships are currently helping all of us to meet this challenge,” says Culhane.
- Working on supportive measures for staff around pay, childcare and other resources, so they have the ability to see patients while maintaining their own physical and emotional health. Culhane shares, “Our staff is our primary and most precious resource. They are also at the forefront of risk, so addressing their safety and needs, which impact those of patients and the wider community, is a top priority. Rest assured that the agency is looking at every possible way it can support this dedicated, needed team throughout this unprecedented event.”
Culhane continues, “We are an agency made up of individuals who share a common goal and focus, and that is the health and safety of our communities. When all of us made the decision to work in home health, we made the explicit decision to work in public health. We strive for improvements with each individual patient, and collectively, we improve the public health of the towns we serve. We play a significant role in the well-being of many communities. It is this public health obligation that calls us now….to help us navigate this unchartered territory through hard decisions, hard work and perseverance and by doing everything we can to help mitigate risk.”
For more information about the essential services currently being provided by Lake Sunapee VNA, call 603-526-4077.