comscore Column: Long-term care facilities flatten curve | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Island Voices

Column: Long-term care facilities flatten curve

  • Wesley Lo

    Wesley Lo

  • Hilton Raethel

    Hilton Raethel

It’s time to show gratitude and congratulate the dedicated health-care professionals at Hawaii’s long-term care facilities.

They have played a major role in “flattening the curve” throughout our islands and protected vulnerable kupuna in facilities across the state. As the nonprofit trade association for many of these long-term care providers, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii has worked alongside its members to keep these residents safe.

Hawaii has more than 5,000 residents at skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. To date, only one resident at a skilled nursing facility is known to have tested positive for COVID-19. That resident is believed to have been infected before entering the nursing facility, and has recovered.

Hawaii’s stability is in stark contrast to many other states across the nation with coronavirus outbreaks in their nursing facilities. The state’s success to date can be attributed to forward-looking measures: adherence to infection control procedures, daily screening of staff, and strict no-visitation policies.

These policies were based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Hawaii Department of Health, national partners, and faculty in the Department of Geriatric Medicine at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

The pandemic is far from over and we all know there are no shortcuts to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities. It is important that, as a state, we stay focused on protecting our kupuna and supporting each other.

We assure you that the association and its members will continue doing everything possible to protect the health of vulnerable residents — your family members.

The association has been in constant communication with leaders at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities throughout the state, as well as home health agencies, assisted living and adult residential care facilities, and hospices.

We share ideas, innovations and best practices that keep patients and residents safe. Together, we adapt policies and best practices that make sense for Hawaii as the kamaaina economy reopens.

Recently, the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made recommendations on reopening nursing homes. The association is working with its members, state health officials and community stakeholders to review the guidelines and adapt them to Hawaii.

We know the restricted visitation policy at our member facilities has been difficult. No one caring for kupuna ever wants to bar family and friends from the people they care about. We have been working with our long-term care members to provide as much access as possible via Zoom calls, FaceTime chats and online video sharing.

We thank the thousands of families who have cooperated. We thank everyone who stayed home, washed hands and practiced social distancing to flatten the curve. That kokua has prevented a coronavirus outbreak in Hawaii’s long-term care settings. We ask people to continue adhering to the visitor policies at healthcare facilities where their loved ones may reside.

Some policies may change as more of the state opens up, but for now, the skilled nursing facilities in particular will continue their no-visitor policies, with exceptions for compassionate care during end of life situations.

Our member facilities will begin to change policies only after knowing they can do so safely, and with careful consideration and input from Hawaii’s public health officials.

While Hawaii isn’t in the clear yet, we can all be optimistic while being safe and staying healthy.

Wesley Lo, is CEO of Ohana Pacific Management Co. and Hale Makua Health Services; Hilton R. Raethel is CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

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