The Boston Herald recently printed an editorial regarding OSHA inspections at some Life Care facilities. Unfortunately, the editorial misrepresented the timing of the OSHA investigations and the nature of the citations, which we are now contesting. Although there were OSHA citations regarding technical compliance, none of the citations were due to the availability of PPE or the providing of PPE to our associates. In a time when every minute mattered, we quickly provided our associates with N95 masks and other PPE to protect themselves and our residents. As supply chains stabilized, we completed fit testing and evaluations. On the frontlines of a pandemic, getting PPE in the hands of associates is and will continue to be our first priority.
We applaud every single one of our associates and health care workers everywhere for their sacrifices and dedication to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. 2020 was an incredibly hard year. We encourage our community to rally around and support these amazing health care workers as the heroes they are. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: healthy residents and associates, a healthy community and the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Champions in Action
There were smiles all around as 112-year-old Hazel Plummer, the oldest resident in Massachusetts, received an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine at Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley. The vaccination clinic in the last week of 2020 at the skilled nursing facility was a fitting way to ring in the New Year.
Today is about hope and moving forward and that our prayers have been answered, and that this is a huge step in the right direction. We're ending this year on a positive note, and there’s a bright future ahead. We're dedicating today to all of our residents and hardworking associates that have been with us through this.
Samantha Pereira, executive director at Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley
COVID-19 came to Nashoba Valley on March 28. It was not the first facility in Massachusetts to have a resident test positive for the lethal virus, but, over the next two months, it would be the focal point for the local and national media as COVID-19 raged through the state and all of the Northeast. The facility battled the virus for 60 days before being free of COVID-19 in late May, and the story of that battle is told below.
Pereira said that she is encouraging residents and associates to be vaccinated, but it is not required. She emphasized that the availability of a vaccine is not the end of the fight against COVID-19, which has attacked the skilled nursing industry across the country in 2020. Life Care Center of Kirkland will maintain stringent safety measures and will continue to follow all guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state and local public health agencies.
"Our goal is to provide a high level of service in a safe environment that brings peace of mind for our residents and patients, along with their families," said Pereira. "The virus tested us, but we came out stronger on the other side."
Prior to March 28, 2020, the executive director at Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley was only concerned with one thing: managing a well-respected skilled nursing home. It was the same for executive directors at all 15 Life Care facilities in Massachusetts, where high levels of service were being delivered on a daily basis for residents and patients.
Then, on March 28, COVID-19 came to Nashoba Valley. It was not the first facility in Massachusetts to have a resident test positive for the lethal virus, but, over the next two months, it would be the focal point for the local and national media as COVID-19 raged through the state and all of the Northeast.
Nashoba Valley and other Life Care facilities were as prepared as facilities could be for the arrival of COVID-19. Zo Long, Life Care's Northeast Division vice president, an area that includes Massachusetts, was on the phone with Life Care's corporate clinical leadership on March 1, two days after the first positive test at a Life Care facility in Kirkland, Washington. Along with other Life Care leaders, Long and her leadership team learned much from Kirkland's experience, including the need for continual surveillance and monitoring, the urgency of ordering PPE and N95 masks and the importance of scrutinizing and following daily guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On the day of the first positive test at Nashoba Valley, Long, Life Care's regional vice president Kate O'Connor and the facility's medical director proactively held a call with the Massachusetts state surveyor, the local Board of Health, the state Department of Public Health and the state epidemiologist.
Two days later, on March 30, the Life Care team got on a phone call with the local hospital and local officials to discuss the facility's readiness. They explained that the Nashoba Valley had adequate PPE and staffing but not the necessary testing. They told local officials that Life Care was prepared with multiple levels of support for Nashoba Valley, a fact reinforced with the knowledge that Life Care had three licensed administrators on-site inside the building. They informed local leaders that despite the level of preparation, there was no treatment for COVID-19.
The call did not have the intended effect. Instead of reassuring the local community, the call led to a press conference, and a media storm ensued at Nashoba Valley.
Over the next 60 days, the team at Nashoba Valley found themselves face-to-face with the deadly virus - but they triumphantly came out on the other side and stabilized their building - losing an associate in the process. As the virus swept through New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, the facility and its associates endured what seemed to be an endless stream of recriminations from local officials and politicians.
The battle against the virus was familiar in its lightning quick pattern of attacking residents. "I was assisting a stable resident with her lunch, and two hours later she was headed to the hospital with respiratory distress."
Kate O'Connor, Regional Vice President
As Life Care of Nashoba Valley became COVID-free at the end of May, the executive director at the time, Amy Lamontagne, penned her thoughts in an op-ed. She wrote:
"What I didn't expect was that at the same time I was fighting to keep my residents and my staff safe, I also had to fight a battle with some local officials, the media and politicians. While many were in the comfort of their offices and homes, my staff and I have been risking our lives on the front lines of this fight.
Shame on them. Their game of blame and shame has demoralized staff and placed residents at even greater risk. They have perpetuated misinformation that has been repeated both in local and national news stories and has been used as a political platform. My staff, residents and their families watch the news. The false and misleading stories have complicated our lives tremendously."
Amy Lamontagne, Executive Director
But Champions rise, which is what the dedicated team at Nashoba Valley has done. It's what the leadership and staff at all 15 Life Care facilities in Massachusetts have done.
Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley's journey since March 28 has been filled with tragedy, sorrow, heroism and community support. A memorial tree and plaque mark the 25 residents and one associate who lost their lives to COVID-19. The ceremony is something that will be repeated at the 13 other Life Care facilities where residents or associates died. A memorial plaque was also dedicated at Life Care Centers of America’s corporate headquarters on Aug. 28, remembering the 13 Life Care associates from across the country who died putting residents first and doing their jobs, including six in Massachusetts.
"The passage of time brings context and clarity of facts to what happened at Nashoba Valley," said Long. "What is clear is that the virus ravaged the entire state, not just the skilled nursing home industry. What is also clear is that the work done by associates at Nashoba Valley and at all of our Massachusetts facilities deserves high praise, not criticism."
Zo Long, Division Vice President
Because the safety and peace of mind of residents and their family members is the highest priority. Life Care facilities in Massachusetts are installing three new technologies to enhance infection control and safety. Two utilize ultraviolent light to kill viruses, and the other allows the facilities to rapidly process COVID-19 tests. They are working daily to help keep residents and associates safe. It's a commitment embraced by Life Care and its associates and one they are working to fulfill each day.
That vigilance includes:
- Providing every patient with a routine clinical assessment.
- Using "Point of Care" testing equipment from the federal government.
- An ongoing surveillance testing program that continues for staff, per state requirement.
- A policy that states new admissions will be placed in quarantine for at least 14 days, allowing for observation to focus on preventing any new introduction of the virus into the facility.
- Ongoing communication with family members includes monitored outdoor visits, window visits, texts, phone calls, FaceTime calls and "drive-by" parades to keep families connected to their loved ones.
- Strict adherence to CDC, CMS and state health department infection control protocols will be maintained.
- Training for associates will be continuously updated based on regulations and first-hand experience in controlling the virus.