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New Braunfels nursing home worker shares concerns from the frontline

At least 13 nursing homes and care facilities in Comal County are trying to get a handle on coronavirus cases among their residents and staff.

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — Nursing homes and care facilities in Comal County are trying to get a handle on coronavirus cases among their residents and staff.

Some have seen improvements over the last few weeks.

A frontline worker at a New Braunfels facility shared her experience, hoping the outcry leads to change.

Comal County Public Health has included coronavirus cases from care facilities in a daily community update. The facilities have seen numbers fluctuate over the last two weeks.

On July 17th, River Gardens reported 80 cases and were down to 6 a week later.

Kirkwood Manor dropped from 59 cases to 20 in the same time frame and Colonial Manor went from 63 cases to 37.

At least ten other facilities are also finding cases among their residents or staff.

July 24th numbers:

  • Colonial Manor, New Braunfels: 37 cases (21 residents, 16 staff); 6 deaths
  • Heights of Bulverde: 21 cases (16 residents, 5 staff); 1 hospitalized; 9 deaths
  • Kirkwood Manor, New Braunfels: 20 cases (16 residents, 4 staff); 5 hospitalized; 11 deaths
  • Sodalis Senior Living, New Braunfels: 15 cases (residents); 1 death*
  • River Gardens, New Braunfels: 6 cases (3 residents, 3 staff); 1 death
  • Memory Care, New Braunfels: 6 cases (staff)
  • EdenHill, New Braunfels: 3 cases (staff)
  • Gruene Senior Living, New Braunfels: 2 cases (1 resident, 1 staff)
  • Elan Westpointe, New Braunfels: 2 cases (1 resident, 1 staff); 1 hospitalized
  • Village of Garden Ridge: 2 cases (staff)
  • Sodalis Senior Living, Garden Ridge: 1 case (staff)
  • Legend Oaks, New Braunfels: 0 active cases, 1 death

[* Case numbers from Sodalis Senior Living in New Braunfels may reflect non-county residents because that facility is accepting COVID-19 patients from other Sodalis facilities outside the county. The number of deaths reflects only Comal County residents.]

July 17th numbers:

  • River Gardens, New Braunfels (Friday): 80 cases (58 residents, 22 staff), 1 death, 3 hospitalized; currently retesting all residents.
  • Colonial Manor, New Braunfels (Wednesday): 63 cases (35 residents, 28 staff), 2 deaths, 1 hospitalized
  • The Heights of Bulverde (Friday): 57 cases (33 residents, 24 staff), 7 deaths
  • Kirkwood Manor, New Braunfels (Friday): 59 cases (39 residents, 20 staff), 9 deaths, 2 hospitalized
  • Legend Oaks, New Braunfels (Wednesday): 1 active case (resident), 1 death; all other staff and residents have tested negative.
  • Sundance Inn, New Braunfels (Tuesday): 3 cases (staff)
  • Memory Care of New Braunfels (Monday): 2 cases (staff)
  • The Village of Garden Ridge (Wednesday): 2 cases (staff)
  • Sodalis Senior Living, New Braunfels (Wednesday): 2 cases (staff)
  • Elan Westpointe, New Braunfels (Tuesday): 1 case (staff)

To help support local nursing homes battling coronavirus outbreaks, the emergency management offices of Comal County and the City of New Braunfels have established a resource center at New Braunfels City Hall. Long-term residential health care facilities who need personal protective equipment and other resources can call 830-221-4618 to request them.

A frontline worker at Colonial Manor in New Braunfels feels the facility can do more to protect their vulnerable residents.

The staff member did not want to be identified but said she has to remind herself, every shift, why she’s putting herself at risk.

“I feel so bad for [the residents], I cry sometimes. I just want them to be okay, whoever doesn't have it,” said the Colonial Manor employee. “I'm actually trying to save lives. I'm just scared for myself and for everybody. This is a serious thing. I just feel like they dropped the ball somewhere.”

KENS 5 reached out to Senior Living Properties, the parent company of Colonial Manor, with a list of the worker’s concerns.

The main issues brought up were a request for more frequent, widespread testing and enforcement of quarantine rules for anyone awaiting test results, resident transfers and roommates of residents who have tested positive for coronavirus. The worker also expressed a desire for clear communication among staff regarding which residents are sick or symptomatic.  

A spokesperson for the company detailed the facility’s protocols which include a medical director on staff to monitor residents 24/7. This month, Colonial Manor also brought in an outside infection control nurse to ensure policy compliance and hired a company to disinfect the entire facility periodically.

The spokesperson wants to assure residents, their loved ones and staff the company takes coronavirus seriously.

“Like many long-term care centers in Comal County and across the country, we have been challenged by the sharp rise in community spread of COVID," the spokesperson said. "We fully understand how serious COVID-19 is, and we are taking strict precautions to protect our residents and employees from contracting it.”

The frontline worker asks care facility staff of all levels to raise the bar. She urges everyone to do their part in stopping the spread of Coronavirus.

Senior Living Properties encourages loved ones with questions or concerns to call the Colonial Manor Director of Nursing at: (830) 625-7526.

A Senior Living Properties Spokesperson issued this full statement in response to the KENS5 inquiry:

"At the beginning of this pandemic, we implemented a number of measures, special processes, and extraordinary precautions across our center. To help prevent the spread:

  • We have set up a separate and isolated unit within the building for residents that test positive to provide them the best care and to protect others.
  • We have employees dedicated only for this unit and they are equipped with proper PPE, and they enter and exit through a completely separate doorway from the rest of the center.
  • We have a medical director on staff that monitors residents’ symptoms around the clock.
  • We brought in an outside infection control nurse in early July to oversee and monitor all activities at Colonial Manor to ensure compliance with all of our policies
  • We hired a company to come in and disinfect the entire facility earlier this month, and we have another cleaning set in a couple weeks.

If a staff member tests positive, they have two options. As approved by the local health department, positive employees can work only in the COVID isolation unit if they choose to. Like the residents, they are completely isolated from the rest of the population. The employees that choose to continue working go above and beyond each and every day to provide the best care for our residents and it highlights their commitment to caring for our residents.

If the employee chooses to stay at home and quarantine, our company offers them paid leave until they are able to return to work. We adhere to CDC guidelines to determine when it’s safe for them to return to work.

Like many long-term care centers in Comal County and across the country, we have been challenged by the sharp rise in community spread of COVID. We have an ample supply of PPE that we strictly enforce with our employees and we screen all employees upon entrance to the center for any signs/symptoms of infection. We fully understand how serious COVID-19 is, and we are taking strict precautions to protect our residents and employees from contracting it.

Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our residents at Colonial Manor. Residents at our center are cared for with the same love and attention as if they are members of our own family. If any family members have concerns or questions, we would ask them to call and speak directly with our Director of Nursing at (830) 625-7526 to ensure their concerns are addressed.

Residents are only transferred from isolation units after they are deemed recovered based on CDC guidelines and with approval from the local Department of Health.

If [previously hospitalized residents] are positive for COVID they are placed in the isolation unit until they recover. If they are negative, they are placed in quarantine for close monitoring and assessment for 14 days.

We know this is a very challenging and scary situation for our residents, their families and our employees. We want to thank the community for their prayers and support, and we are committed to providing the very best care as we all work together to combat this crisis. We also want to thank our extraordinary nurses, doctors, and staff for their tireless efforts on the frontlines. They are going above and beyond each and every day to provide the best care for our residents. 

Our standard practice is to place any resident that has been exposed to COVID into immediate quarantine. Because of the high community spread in Comal County, we took the extraordinary measure to place the entire center on quarantine in early July. Starting then, we did not allow any new admissions or transfers into Colonial Manor, and things like food service are catered to each resident’s room. We have also been catering in all meals for employees so they do not have to leave the center during their shift and can remain in quarantine. 

All testing is scheduled at the direction of the local Department of Health. In fact, when the State was not able to procure enough COVID tests for Colonial Manor in early July, our company independently sought out and secured tests for all our residents and employees.

There are multiple meetings every day between the Center’s leadership and employees to review and discuss each resident’s well-being. The corporate office has also sent multiple communications to both employees, residents, and family members to provide updates."