For those who couldn’t attend the banquet, I would like to give you an update on the happenings of the past year at WMH, and what’s in our future.
It has been quite a year for everyone. COVID-19 has consumed the world of healthcare and long-term care facilities. In many ways, It was a stressful year, a lonely year and a fearful year. But, despite all of that, it has been a year of incredible acts of teamwork, strategic partnerships, great faith and hope. We partnered with Landis Communities for crisis staffing preparedness and for help writing policies for the ever-changing guidance and regulations from the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services. We also partnered with the Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP), developed by Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health for help in supplying PPE and logistical help with residents.
The Pandemic’s Effect on Staff & Residents
Even though the vaccine is a huge breakthrough, and we may see a little light at the end of the tunnel, we cannot relax our efforts to keep our residents and staff safe. Unfortunately, we learned from experience the devastating consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak in October 2020. Thirty-one of our thirty-nine residents contracted COVID-19. That is 80% of our census. As residents tested positive they were moved off campus, to a COVID unit at Brandywine Nursing and Rehab facility. This move was coordinated by the RRHCP team to help control the spread of infection. Our first round of universal testing resulted in sixteen positive residents. We tested all residents and staff weekly and each week more and more residents were positive. The testing lasted 8 weeks, until no one tested positive and residents returned to WMH as they recovered. It breaks my heart to tell you that 6 residents never returned to WMH because they lost their battle with COVID-19. Only 5 of our staff were infected and all survived. I am very proud to tell you that not one of our team members refused to work during the outbreak and that not one direct caregiver became infected. This is a true testimony to how diligent they were with infection control measures and PPE.
A Decision Made to Keep Residents Safer
Once we got through the outbreak, we needed to put our head’s together to find the root cause for why the infection spread so rapidly throughout our whole building. The number one reason, that everyone agreed upon, was the sharing of bathrooms. WMH is set up much like a dormitory, where residents share hall bathrooms. Up to 6 residents can share one bathroom. It was impossible to keep up with disinfecting bathrooms to stop the spread of infection. Another root cause that was identified, was that many of our residents suffer with memory loss, and other cognitive disorders that make it difficult for them to remember to wash their hands, turn off the faucet with a paper towel, and to open the door and turn off the light with a paper towel, for infection prevention efforts.
It was evident to all (WMH leadership, WMH board members and Landis Communities leadership) that now was the time to renovate the facility, that is over a century old. There may never be another global pandemic, but every year we experience flu season, which could be just as devastating for our vulnerable residents. So, I collaborated with the leadership team of Landis Communities and together we started planning a renovation to add more bathrooms to our facility. We hired an architect and we are currently working on a design and a budget to add at least 18 bathrooms to WMH. The renovation will result in more private bathrooms and some “Jack n Jill” bathrooms, this style is a bathroom, located between two rooms, shared by only two residents. There is no access to the bathroom from the hall, only from the resident’s room. We couldn’t provide a private bathroom for everyone without removing so many rooms that we would lose our mission of providing care for those with little or no income. Although we do not have a final design, as the plan stands today, we will be reducing the number of rooms from 47 to 41.
Renovations in Phases
Our architects have planned the renovation to happen in seven phases. Each phase will take approximately eight weeks. It will be a little more than a year for all phases to be completed. Residents will have to move temporarily during the phases and they may not end up in the same room or even the same floor as they were before renovations. I know that this is going to be disruptive to the residents, but we will work very hard to make each transition as smooth and as comfortable as possible for each resident. Even though this is going to be a long and disruptive process, the end result will ultimately, certainly benefit the residents. I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.
The renovations will add more than bathrooms. Although we always remain committed to our mission, WMH will need a certain number of private pay residents to help subsidize those who have little or no income. Even our private pay rate does not fully cover the cost of care that we provide to the residents, but we could not stay operational without a percentage of our residents paying privately. Providing private bathrooms will help us be able to increase our private pay rates, while still being a low-income alternative for personal care. Another big advantage of adding private bathrooms is that residents will no longer have to travel down the hallway, in a robe, to access a bathroom. Accessing their bathroom, directly from their room, will provide dignity for all of our residents.
Support from the Community
Now, I know the big question on everyone’s mind is “How are you going to pay for this?”. I am collaborating with the Landis Communities Advancement team on a capital campaign. A gentleman, by the name of, Marlin Hershey, has agreed to lead our campaign. Landis Communities Leadership and the WMH board agreed that we do not want to go into debt, or mortgage the property to fund this project.
Although we are seeking donations for this project, WMH will still need donations to continue to provide all of the quality services, that we provide now, to our residents, during the renovation. The capital campaign will be a separate venture from our quarterly donation appeals.
Without our community and church support, WMH would not be able to continue. As previously mentioned, even our private rate does not cover the costs of care that we provide to our residents. We will always need donations to operate. Your support makes such a big difference in our resident’s lives. I have had many people, who visited WMH from agencies and organizations like Hospice and Home Health Services, make statements like: “This is a really nice place for an SSI home.” and, “Wow, your residents look really good, and smell good, too, for a low-income facility”. This is only true because of our community and church support. Because of you we can pay our staff a competitive wage, provide nutritious meals, and deliver all the other quality services that we do. It is the community’s and Church’s ongoing support that gives WMH it’s great reputation!
I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for blessing our residents with your generosity and prayers.