Kennewick long-term care facility slowly opens to visitors

Long-term care facilities in Washington state are allowed to start reopening visitation hours for family and friends of residents.

WA Gov. Jay Inslee announced a four phase plan on Thursday. Each phase offers looser restrictions depending on COVID-19 transmission rates where the long-term facility is located. Similar to to the governor’s Safe Start reopening plan, the lower the phase, the more restrictions are still in place. A facility must also meet certain criteria before advancing through the phased process.

The tri-city area is still considered in phase one of the governor’s guidance because of the high numbers of COVID-19 cases in Benton and Franklin Counties. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care facilities in both counties will have to follow rules under phase one of the plan which include window visits, remote visits and compassionate care visits. Outdoor visits are allowed on a limited basis with only two visitors per day per resident.

Bonaventure Senior Living has a location in Kennewick and the organization’s director of operations Jeremiah Gray said the facility is already implementing some of the visitation methods on the governor’s approved list for the well-being of their residents.

“We’ve been doing social distance outdoor visits for some time and working with families on scheduling those and making sure that proper social distancing is in place,” Gray said, “Making sure our residents have the space they need and you know, when all precautions are being taken, when we look at phase one, it doesn’t change a lot from what we’re already doing.”

Virtual visits are also outlined in phase one of the plan and Gray said the organization has already ordered devices for their residents. They will be able to visit with family and friends through the devices, as well as speak with medical professionals. A resident will have the ability to meet one-on-one with a doctor for a telemedicine visit due to the devices offered.

Bonaventure of Tri-Cities did experience some cases of COVID-19. The first confirmed case inside the facility was due to a resident visiting someone in Renton, WA. Gray said the event was an eye-opener and made the organization take extra precaution in caring for their residents. They instituted screenings for all residents and staff to ensure the virus will not enter the facility.

“So we’ve kind of been ahead of some of this phasing,” Gray said, “It’s nice to get something in writing from the state and I think it’s a step in the right direction.

Gray said federal, state and local governments, as well as local health authorities, are making the right choice in allowing residents and facilities to make decisions based on what is best for them. He said the people in nursing homes have lived full lives and when they see the rest of the world reopening while they are stuck inside small rooms or apartments, it makes them feel stuck.

“I think in a lot of ways we’ve been in between a rock and a hard place,” he said, “We’re serving the greatest generation this country is known. When we look at that, they’re being told very much, ‘Here’s what you’re going to do,’ and I think not a lot of thought has been given to the fact they are adults that are live full lives and can take those risks and make those decisions. We’ve been on the side of trying to find ways to promote independence and give those family connections and the stuff that’s important to our residents as much as we possibly can. It’s always a balance between safety and respecting the fact that they’re adults.”

Gray said the organization will not move along with the governor’s plan in every aspect. Instead they will follow their own guidelines to see what is best for their residents and their families.

“We don’t want to take that risk,” he said, “We’re also looking at not only the state’s recommendation, but also that individual community, what does that look like? What have we seen? Has that building had any cases? Have we had team members with cases? So it’s an evaluation process that goes beyond just simply looking at the guidelines and saying, ‘How does it fit? Okay. Let’s do it.’ It’s also looking at taking a step back and saying ‘Okay, how do we bring and make this safe for our residents and team members?'”

Gray said they have implemented some outdoor entertainment like concerts to their residents. He said their Kennewick location has had an abundance of personal protective equipment through out the pandemic and they will continue ensuring residents and visitors have what they need as the location reopens.