TOMS RIVER – Ocean County Health Department officials said they have been working with nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to ensure that everything is being done to protect the health of residents and employees during the spread of COVID-19.
As of April 24, there were 740 residents of long-term care facilities in the county who tested positive. Sadly, there have been 61 residents that have died from the virus.
There are a total of 54 long-term facilities in Ocean County, the Health Department reported. Of these, 35 are licensed as nursing homes and the other 19 as assisted living facilities. At least 38 of these facilities have one or more residents who tested positive.
“We knew from day one that the senior residents in the assisted living and long-term care facilities were going to be high risk,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “There are a unique set of challenges and barriers that these facilities have been trying to contain and limit the spread of the disease and the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) is assisting them whichever way they can.”
On March 11, the Health Department had a conference with the facilities and did so again more recently, bringing in the Health Care Association of New Jersey.
On a daily basis, teams of four nurses and an epidemiologist from the Health Department contact each facility to make sure they have the necessary staff and supplies.
“Our liaison teams reinforce the CDC guidelines for handling patients in these settings,” said Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “It’s not an easy job trying to keep patients healthy and safe especially when you’re dealing with high-risk individuals that are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus in close quarters. We are also working to provide channels to state and local authorities and coordinating efforts with the Ocean County Senior Services Department. One of their biggest needs that the OCHD has been able to assist with, and directly provide, is personal protection equipment (PPE).”
It is critical that the facilities have, and are following, all of the recommended guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Health Department stated. “Ensuring patients are properly handled, protecting the healthcare worker in the facility, trying to prevent the spread to others and discussing how facilities are handling joint meal service are just a few of the scenarios that are being addressed.”
“More than 173,000 residents in Ocean County are older adults,” expressed Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, Chairman of Senior Services and County Operations. “A large portion of seniors are living at these facilities so it’s been important that staff and patients have a resource such as the Ocean County Health Department for crucial guidance and assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
For information regarding long term care facilities in the county, visit ochd.org
If a resident is concerned that a facility is not following regulations, they should contact the New Jersey Department of Health Long Term Care Facility Complaint Hotline at (800) 792-9770.
The OCHD is also providing a general COVID-19 Information Call Hot Line for residents and clinicians to answer questions regarding the coronavirus. The number is 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.
The NJDOH hotline is available for questions around the clock at 1-800-222-1222 or by dialing 2-1-1.