Covid-19 Impacts Region A Long-Term Care Facilities

Written by Larry Alan Reeves, Regional Ombudsman

Covid-19 has had a major impact on the LTC facilities in Region A in several ways. First the residents of the facilities have had (and continue to have) limited personal contact with family members and resident representatives. Personal visits with skilled nursing home residents is not permitted through Executive Orders of Gov. Cooper and Secretarial Orders fromSecretary of Health and Human Services. This has been in place since March 2020. When will it be lifted and visits resume? Who knows. The current plan is to coincide the reopening of the restrictions when North Carolina is able to move to Phase 3 of the overall reopening plan. Contingent upon nursing home visits resuming is for a particular facility to be Covid-19 free for 28 or more days. If/when reentry begins, PPEs and strict screening processes must be in place. For adult care and family care facilities some visitation is being allowed outside of the facility. In those cases, masks wearing, social distancing, and limited participation is strictly enforced.

Covid-19 has reduced the number of available beds in the LTC facilities. There are quarantine and isolation restrictions in place within the facilities for all new residents. These restrictions are designed to protect the residents from the potential of contamination. The new resident must be proven to be Covid-19 free through testing and observation. During this time, the other residents of the facility must be protected from potential contamination from the new resident(s). 

Needless to say, all of the limitations and restrictions have caused lots of stress and distress for everyone. The residents are anxious, fearful, lonely, bored and depressed. Many are upset as they miss the personal contact with families and friends. Administrative staff members are uncertain as to the best ways to manage their businesses, while at the same time, keep their residents and staff members safe. Direct care staff members are doing their best to provide for the resident’s care needs with limited personnel. (Many staff members are overworked due to limited numbers available.) Family members and friends are anxious to see their loved ones; realizing that some are nearing the end of their lives, are fearful and alone, and are anxious that they too may become infected and have to face the serious consequences of the virus. Therefore, there are a lot of issues that could be highlighted to illustrate the current state of things; however, the longer this continues on the more/different issues arise.

During these challenging days, the Regional Ombudsman (RO) wears many different hats. At times, the RO is a cheerleader for facility staff members, urging them to continue doing their best on behalf of residents. The RO is an interpreter for residents/representatives as to the rules, regulations, Executive and Secretarial Orders, benefits, rights, and so many other aspects. The RO is a confidant of facility administrators as they vent their concerns and fears. At times hands must be held, accountability must be brought to the discussion, socially-distanced hugs must be given.

These are challenging days. Where to from here? Who knows! Hopefully, an effective vaccine will be put together and made available real soon. Also, hopefully, folks will be willing to take the vaccine.

If questions, concerns, and the need for more information or clarification is needed get in touch with the Regional Ombudsman.

Finally, it is appropriate to acknowledge that Covid-19 is the cause of death for people all around the world and here in Region A as well. May we be sensitive and respectful to the families that have lost loved ones and to the ones that provided care as death came. For me, as a person of faith, I pray for comfort and for solutions to come soon.


Larry Reeves