NEW ORLEANS — The Notre Dame Health System, which includes three senior living facilities in the New Orleans area, has been struggling to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections because of a lack of access to personal protective gear, administrators said Saturday.
Chateau de Notre Dame, the Our Lady of Wisdom Health Care Center, and Wynhoven Health Care Center have not been able to get more personal protective equipment (PPE).
Chateau de Notre Dame was named as a coronavirus "cluster" by the Louisiana Department of Health, meaning they found multiple related cases of coronavirus in the facility.
"The PPE equipment is not available at any price," President and CEO of the Notre Dame Health System Wayne Plaisance said.
In a post on the health system's website on Saturday, Plaisance said the only way the facilities could reduce the risk of infection to residents was to limit the number of people entering the facility, screening staff and residents for fevers or COVID-19 symptoms.
"We need to be clear in stating that our staff is doing their very best to prevent infection to residents in an environment with almost no (PPE) 'personal protective equipment.,'" Plaisance said. "When you hear PPE on the broadcasts, know that we are among those working to provide staff with some level of protection."
But isolating patients after COVID-19 symptoms are apparent might not be the answer.
"When symptoms are present it is already too late because now we know that people without symptoms can infect others," Plaisance said. "At this time, we are in a battle against an enemy, we do not know. It takes weeks to get results if the test is allowed."
Citing the overwhelming number of patients at hospitals, Plaisance said residents sent to hospitals are often sent back to the living facilities.
"As we send residents from nursing homes to hospitals, many are returned to the facility with instructions to quarantine for 14 days," Plaisance said. "This is a difficult task for those in semi-private rooms. We have also had to face hospitals not communicating with the facility."
Plaisance said promises of relief from state and federal agencies haven't been fulfilled.
"We have welcomed representatives from the Center for Disease Control and LA Department of Public Health, all want to be helpful," Plaisance said. "Relief is promised but nothing has arrived."
In an attempt to get appropriate personal protective gear to handle coronavirus in the facilities, the institution began reaching to other suppliers. The living centers will begin isolating patients in 10 private rooms in a separate building at one of their facilities.
"So we have decided to rely on ourselves to reach out to industrial suppliers and have a very limited supply of personal protective equipment that will get us started in moving a resident with symptoms to a separate building behind Wynhoven Health Care Center," Plaisance said.