Page 9 - Work Force July-August 2020
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Preparation key to COVID-19 prevention
KINGSTON — While many hospitals and nursing homes were equally walloped by the COVID-19 pandemic, some facilities mere miles apart fared better than others.
There were a number of factors at play with outcomes at CSEA- represented nursing homes. At the Golden Hill Nursing Home in Ulster County, luck wasn’t one of them.
“We were proactive,” said CSEA shop steward Dijonee Congemi, a certified nursing assistant at Golden Hill. “Once there was a confirmed case in the Kingston area, it wasn’t too long after that the decision was made to stop visitors. We didn’t know how long that would go on, but it happened before it became a state mandate.”
Restricting visitation is a tough call, since visits from family and friends can help nursing home residents thrive. While it was a tough call, it was the right call, as confirmed cases soon filled local
hospitals and resulted in outbreaks at several area nursing homes.
As it turns out, Congemi said, taking regular infection control measures extra seriously made a difference in limiting COVID-19 at Golden Hill.
“They were very big on infection control, handwashing, and making sure we knew how to properly put on and take off our PPE,” said Congemi. “To this day, they still take our temperature at work and monitor for any possible symptoms.”
Assigning specific staff for possible COVID-19 cases was another smart step.
“In my unit, we had a dedicated hallway for any possible cases,” Congemi said. “We would have one nurse and one [cerified nursing assistant] assigned and they would have the face shield, an N-95 mask, gowns, the whole works. Before anything, you’d wash your hands and make sure you’re set with that,
and then put on your PPE. Then when you’re done, you would take everything off and properly dispose of it.”
With so many restrictions in place, staff put an extra emphasis on keeping residents connected with family.
“The staff have been Facetiming residents’ family members,” said Congemi. “They also bring them downstairs to the lobby while their loved ones are outdoors. They’ll either have a cell phone or Facetime and they can communicate that way.”
With all the long hours and hard work, the impact on workers and their family lives is undeniable. Congemi said it helped that management set up emergency child care for those workers needing it. Morale boosts via food donations and other tributes from local organizations also helped.
While COVID-19 infection cases
have declined, workers remain extra vigilant. There’s pride, however, in how initial preventative steps made a difference early on.
“It showed on our part that we were doing something right,” Congemi said.
— Jessica Ladlee
 Nursing home workers deserve recognition
 GOSHEN — The COVID-19 pandemic meant immediate and sweeping changes at nursing homes, resulting in measures aimed at limiting the spread of the disease.
For our members working at
the Orange County-owned Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation, the pandemic meant working longer hours than normal, taking on COVID-19 patients from
a local hospital and taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.
While workers juggled the demands of home life, something especially challenging for those with young children, there remained a consistent effort to balance the measures taken for infection control with touches aimed at retaining some normalcy for residents.
With visitation restricted, workers also stepped in to provide comfort and end of life care for residents who might otherwise have had family beside them.
Workers went the extra mile
to keep residents engaged while staying safe. Staff brought recreation directly to the units rather than common areas. Outdoors, there was a parade of emergency and municipal vehicles, a parade of classic cars, and even a visit from a Clydesdale that is part of the New York State Police Mounted Patrol. Eventually, some family members were able to enjoy outdoor visits with loved ones.
For a suburban area, Orange County was hit particularly hard after COVID-19 began to spread
in New York. As this edition went to press, the Orange County Department of Health had reported over 10,658 positive cases and 473 deaths.
“It’s so important that we acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices of workers in nursing homes throughout this pandemic,” said Orange County Unit President Rosemarie Kukys, a registered nurse who oversees employee training
at Valley View. “These past few months are unlike anything we as health care professionals have seen during our careers. Because we have bonds formed with our residents,
it was on us to provide comfort
and reassurance during a time that has been frightening for everyone. Everyone at Valley View, whether direct care workers or support staff, has shown the utmost compassion for our residents.”
Southern Region President Anthony Adamo said that feedback provided by our members in front- line health care settings such as Valley View shows the need for federal lawmakers to pass a version of the HEROES Act that includes hazard pay.
“The workers who have been
on the front lines, many of whom have contracted COVID-19 at work, deserve recognition in the form of hazard pay as part of a federal aid package from Washington,” said Adamo. “The people who have cared
Susan Ortiz, a certified nursing assistant at Valley View, had her gown signed by co-workers during National Nursing Home Week celebrations. (Photo provided by Susan Ortiz)
for our vulnerable elderly residents during COVID-19, some of whom got sick themselves, must be paid fairly for that work.”
— Jessica Ladlee
 July-August 2020
The Work Force 9

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