Sunday 25 October, 2020

JAMAICA: Over 100 nursing homes breach measures to prevent COVID-19

The Ministry of Health and Wellness in Jamaica has urged relatives of persons in nursing homes to ensure that the operators adhere to the established health guidelines and standards.

This comes after over 100 elderly care facilities were found to be in breach of health protocols to prevent COVID-19.

In recent weeks, health officials inspected 204 nursing homes as part of a coronavirus management strategy, with only 98 such homes deemed as being satisfactory in adherence to the relevant health standards.

Among some of the problems detected at the facilities in breach were the lack of physical distancing, the absence of isolation areas, and the failure of staff members to comply with the mandatory wearing of masks.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, said operators of those nursing homes have been asked to implement corrective measures ahead of follow-up inspections to be conducted in the weeks to come.

"Two hundred and four nursing homes, including 17 not in our records, have been inspected in recent times over the last number of weeks. Ninety-eight were satisfactory, 106 had issues, and we have given some time, up to four weeks in some instances, for improvements to be done," he disclosed.

"... While it (the focus) includes trying to get these facilities (nursing  homes) to register, there is a primary focus of getting them to put in place mechanisms to minimise the risk of COVID-19 because that is the current challenge that we face that we are trying to avoid," Tufton indicated.

Since the global spread of the coronavirus, the Health Ministry has expressed that special measures need to be put in place to protect the most vulnerable, including elderly persons, from the virus, for which there is no vaccine to date.

Of note, several senior citizens are stricken with underlying medical conditions, and reside in nursing homes.

"Of the 204 nursing homes, it represents a bed capacity of over 3,242 with an 80 per cent occupancy. So there are quite a number of persons in nursing homes, based on the inspections that we would have done," Tufton said, adding that, "This would mean that over 2,500 Jamaicans are in the 204 nursing homes across the country, and they are vulnerable."

Meanwhile, Tufton outlined some of the challenges health officials identified, following the inspection of nursing homes across the island.

"So we have had issues with inadequacy in the training of personnel with regards to cleaning and sanitisation procedures and that is a major focus of our (health) officers. Inadequate hand hygiene facilities; again (this is) standard protocol in infection prevention and control," he revealed.

The health minister also informed that there were no isolation areas at some nursing homes.

"No isolation area; if someone has symptoms we have to remove them to an isolation area until they are appropriately assessed, and every facility should have an isolation area," declared Tufton.

Health officials also found that some of the care facilities had no provision in place for social or physical distancing. Additionally, common areas, including dining rooms and TV rooms, were not sufficiently spaced out, and appropriate seating arrangements were not followed to ensure the physical distancing protocol was maintained.

Tufton also suggested that some nursing homes did not have running water, or at least in in parts of the building where water was essential.

"So even if there is water, there may need to be adjustments in the plumbing structures," he stated.

In relation to the nursing homes, Tufton said some were "not complying with the PPE requirements, whether wearing of masks or otherwise.

"Temperature checks for staff entering premises (were) not being done, which is a critical component of the standard protocol, and temperature checks (were) not being logged," the health minister outlined.

He added that at some nursing homes, "inappropriate cleaning and sanitation chemicals" were being used to clean the floors and other areas of the facilities.

On a positive note, Tufton stressed that health officials would continue to work with nursing homes to bring the facilities up to the relevant health standards to be in line with the relevant COVID-19 prevention protocols.

"The team will continue to inspect. We have given reports to each facility indicating where there are challenges and (we) make recommendations for overcoming those challenges and give the dates where (further) inspections will take place, and we will continue to do so in the weeks and the months ahead," he explained.

Tufton also appealed to relatives of persons in nursing homes to play their parts to ensure that operators are complying with health guidelines and standards crafted by the Health Ministry.

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