The risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 has created challenges for healthcare providers who remain committed to providing quality care to patients.

"The challenge that we are facing, like everyone in healthcare, is to ensure we have the personl protective equipment (PPE) to protect ourselves and others," Carmen Altendorf, director of the Wellington Interim Healthcare office said in an email. "We have an inventory of our PPE that we keep updated daily, and have ordered more so we are prepared to care for our patients. We are checking the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services) websites daily for updates, and are following all of the guidelines and recommendations."

PPE consists of masks, gloves, gowns and face shields when necessary.

Gina Wallace, LPN for Rivercross Hospice, said their visits to nursing homes have been cut down to one visit every 14 days in many of the nursing homes they visit.

"Our social workers and chaplains cannot go in unless someone happens to be actively dying," Wallace said. "We understand why our nursing communities are putting the restrictions in place."

Wallace and Altendorf both said their staff has to answer screening questions when they enter a facility and have their temperatures taken.

Altendorf said, "We are partners with the facility staff, and want to keep the staff and patients as safe as possible. So we are doing everything we can to be cautious and follow any rules they have in place.

Wallace said when their workers go into a home, they always take the temperatures of those living there and ask them screening questions every single visit.

Rivercross has " limited our visits because our home patients want to feel safe as well, and have been cautious about how often they allow us to visit," Wallace said.

Altendorf said, "Our social workers and chaplains have done visits by phone or Zoom to maintain contact with the patients and families.  For families, this is such a difficult time if they are not able to visit their loved one in the facility, so the support and communication from the hospice team is vital to them."

Both Altendorf and Wallace said they anticipate having to eventually care for patients with COVID-19.

"We will take all precautionary measures that are absolutely necessary to keep our staff safe while still caring for someone with this horrible illness," Wallace said.

Altendorf said, "Without a doubt, we will eventually care for a patient with COVID-19.  All of our staff have had training on how to care for a patient and family that is in quarantine or isolation.  We have a COVID-19 Task Force that meets to discuss the latest requirements, and to assess what we as an agency need to do to continue to be prepared."

Tanya Chancellor, hospice liason for Rivercross, said their providers are "boots on the ground" and available for patients 24/7.

Altendorf said, "The bottom line is we are in healthcare, and we will do everything possible to meet the needs of our community, and keep our staff safe and healthy."