Matt Pierce Briscoe
This week at least two area nursing facilities were the center of concern after a contract healthcare provider ostensibly exposed staff and patients at those facilities to COVID-19. Officials confirmed that while a majority of tests from at least one of the facilities have been returned, information from the other is highly controlled and limited. However, a recently introduced new state protocol may have helped save lives and limit potential exposure to the deadly virus.
According to the Department of State Health and human Services, new guidance went out to facilities and local health departments across the state, laying out specific mandates that must be followed when a positive case is found within a nursing facility. That plan is what DSHS calls the "Nursing Facility Response Plan."
The 51-page document provided to us by the state clearly outlines what steps should be taken and what resources are made available to facilities through the state and state sponsored programs. But while that may have saved lives and helped limit exposure within the facilities, it certainly created some confusion.
"Upon the first positive test result of a nursing facility staff member or resident, the facility must work with local health authorities, the Department of State Health Services and HHSC to coordinate testing of all nursing facility staff and residents," said Danielle Pestrikoff, Assistant Press Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services said on Friday in a response to our questioning.
However, since the directive was only handed down this week, which coincided with the presumptive positive of the contract healthcare provider, sources in both facilities have confirmed that the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Health District was seemingly unaware of the guidance when they were notified.
"When we began speaking with local health officials we asked about this new guidance and they acted like they had never even seen it," one healthcare manager who is employed at one of the facilities told us on Friday. "What I took from it was that the state had just issued the new protocol on Monday and that the Health District was instructing us to go another route because it at least seemed like they knew nothing about this new protocol."
State officials say that it is highly likely there was some confusion. They also said that throughout the entire process, state health managers were closely monitoring the situation and even assisting and completing much of the testing themselves.
It is unclear how many tests were actually administered between the two facilities this week, but DSHS said that they would provide us with an exact number. So far, most of the tests from Brookdale Trinity Towers have come back with negative results. Sources said that they expect to have a clearer picture on the situation at San Raefel later today.
This is a developing story.