KEYSER - With the COVID 19 pandemic sweeping across the United States, the question of how to protect our most vulnerable has been on the minds of nearly everyone.

By Barbara High
bhigh@newstribune.info
Tribune Staff Writer
KEYSER - With the COVID 19 pandemic sweeping across the United States, the question of how to protect our most vulnerable has been on the minds of nearly everyone.
Among those working on the front lines to protect one of the most vulnerable groups - the elderly - are those who work at local nursing centers.
Piney Valley, owned by Stonerise Health Care, is a 122-bed local nursing home which normally runs at the capacity of 118. With media coverage of the devastating events that occurred in an infected Washington State nursing home, Stonerise Healthcare and Piney Valley are taking every step possible to assure the safety of residents and staff.
According to Larry Pack, CEO of Stonerise Healthcare, every precaution that can be taken is being taken.
“We work closely with the Public Health section of the Department of Health and Human Resources, and we following closely the advice of the CDC.”
Pack said the decision was made almost four weeks ago to limit visitation in their care facilities.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but we wanted to assure the safety of everyone and keep the virus out.”
With DHHR and Governor Justice calling for precautions, a policy of limited visitors were set in place. The only people being allowed to come into the centers are employees, end-of-life care workers, family members of those who are at their end of life stage, and individuals providing essential care such as blood draws and x-rays. All steps were taken to reduce traffic into the facility.
They also implemented a strict screening policy for employees. There is a set of questions they must answer at the beginning of every shift - have you been experiencing any respiratory illness? Have you traveled? Have you been in contact with anyone known or suspected to have coronavirus? Or do you reside in an area with cases of the coronavirus?
 “It’s a broad and an extreme screening, and a temperature reading is taken on everyone at the beginning of every shift,” says Pack.
With patients being unable to see family members, it can quickly affect the mood and emotional well being for residents.
“It was not an easy decision,” says Pack, who says they always want to keep their residents’ needs met. With family support being  such an important part of a residents life, other ways were sought to provide as much communication between residents and their families. Stonerise Healtcare quickly came up with some solutions.
Pack says that the facilities use Zoom to keep family members in contact with their loved ones. Family members can click on their zoom link and pick a facility and schedule a time and date for a face-to-face visit with their loved one. Keeping families connected at this difficult time is very important to Stonerise Health Care, says Pack.
With some social media posts showing some families going to see their loved ones through the windows of nursing homes, Pack said they wanted to encourage the use of Zoom. The window visits have been done at some facilities, but it goes against public safety and Governor Justice’s Stay at home order says Pack.
“We understand the significance of the limited visitor access,” says Pack. “We treat our facilities like home for our residents whether they are here for two weeks or two years, and we plan to protect them.”
Another way that they have tried to help ease the difficult time facing the families is with their Guardian Angels program. This allows the family members of residents to speak directly with those caring for their loved ones.
“It gives them a face and a voice to connect with, so they can receive updates on their loved ones that is more personal,” says Pack. “It gives them personal contact with the individuals who are caring for their loved ones.”
Pack said that program has been working really well.
With all the steps being taken at Piney Valley and all of the facilities owned by Stonerise Health Care, Pack said it was all done with one goal in mind. “Our ultimate goal is to protect everyone.
“The safety and health of our employees and patients is the most important thing, and we are doing everything possible to assure that.”
With concerns of shortages for much needed medical supplies all over the nation, Pack says the centers are okay for the time being.
“We are closely working with DHHR and the National Guard with supply concerns, and ordering additional supplies as they can,” he said.
“The National Guard assure us they our making this a priority.”