BOISE, Idaho — The COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on long-term care facilities throughout Idaho, but the state still isn’t sharing which specific facilities have had positive cases due to patient privacy concerns.
Long-term care facilities are comprised of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and residential care facilities.
People living in long-term care facilities often need a certain level of care, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said that doesn't change if someone tests positive for COVID-19.
A new facility in Twin Falls is now caring exclusively for coronavirus patients who need that extra level of care.
It’s called Twin Falls Manor.
“We looked to create a community where those have tested positive for COVID could come and safely recuperate from the disease and then return to their home environment,” said John Gochnour, chief operating officer for the Pennant Group, which owns Twin Falls Manor.
A Health and Welfare spokesperson told KTVB the Pennant Group approached their licensing division in April to discuss the possibility of opening a facility that cares for coronavirus patients. The licensing process was fast-tracked because there was an immediate need to care for COVID-positive patients in the Twin Falls area.
The center is essentially acting as its own quarantine unit. If a resident in a long-term care facility in the region tests positive for COVID-19, they can be transferred to the center.
“It can happen from Boise, Pocatello,” Gochnour said. “We have the capacity to transport patients from that broader geographic area.”
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By catering exclusively to coronavirus patients, officials say it will lower the risk of spreading the virus throughout other long-term care facilities, while still treating the individual who has the virus.
“We didn't want to mix both folks who were impacted by COVID with residents who haven't been impacted by COVID,” Gochnour said. “Just to try to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
While the Department of Health and Welfare is not naming specific facilities, the department is giving out some general numbers when it comes to coronavirus cases. As of Monday, 11 long-term care facilities are reporting 224 active COVID-19 cases in Idaho. In total, there have been 244 cases in 21 facilities since March 13.
Ten of the facilities are no longer being monitored due to a lack of new cases for four weeks.
Meanwhile, 34 of the state's 69 reported deaths - almost half - are from long-term care facilities, according to state health officials.
“Our goal in working with the state task force was to say here is a building we can devote specifically to the care of these patients,” Gochnour said. “Where other individuals who haven't been exposed won't be at risk, thereby to mitigate the spread of the disease.”
The facility came together during the month of April, as staff worked to transform it from the independent living facility it used to be, train staff, and implement infection control procedures and policies to ensure everything was ready to care for a vulnerable population.
“There is involvement of skilled clinicians and physicians to make sure these patients and their needs are met and that is really the design and maybe what separates this facility,” Gochnour said. “It is dedicated to serving these residents, through very strict infectious control practices that are observed, there is a consistent goal of having the very best trained staff available at all times to care for patient’s needs.”
The facility's staff came from throughout Idaho, according to Gochnour. He said they were specifically recruited with the understanding they would be caring for coronavirus patients every day.
“We offered what we call hero pay, or hazard pay, to those individuals to encourage them to be a part of what we’re doing,” he said.
Twin Falls Manor has 80 beds. More than a dozen of them are for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The facility used to be called Heritage Independent Living. There were five people living there and all five were relocated to Heritage Assisted Living or to an apartment.
Twin Falls Manor is not in the same building as Heritage Assisted Living. The two facilities operate in different locations and have different staff.
Both Gochnour and IDHW confirmed the facility is the only one of its kind that treats exclusively COVID-19 positive patients in Idaho.
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