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Senior Center CEO Talks Heavy Burden Of Keeping Patients, Staff Safe Through Coronavirus



PLANO, TX — In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, nursing centers have been called everything from petri dishes to perfect storms: a deadly mix of advanced age and already frail health.

CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities Melissa Orth said the spike in nursing home deaths in other communities prompted her team to be proactive.​

“The minute that someone had a recommendation, we didn’t wait for it to become a mandate,” Orth said. “As soon as there was a best practice that was offered to us, we implemented it.”​

Those changes included shutting down facilities to outside visitors, suspending communal meals and twice daily temperature checks for patients and staff to watch for possible symptoms.

But the sacrifices for workers didn’t stop there.​

“We’ve asked our employees to only work for us,” Orth continued. “Many of our employees work for multiple employers, but we’re finding that is a potential risk of exposure. When you have one person working in multiple communities, that expands that risk — so in order to recognize all of the sacrifices they are making, we are implementing some hazard pay for them.”​

Staff has also been equipped with personal protective equipment, and Orth says it appears to be working.​

“So far, what we’ve done has been successful. No employees or residents have had any COVID-19 symptoms. But we understand that any day, that can change… We are doing everything in our power to try and control it.”​

When asked what the community can do to help care for our seniors — whether that be in facilities or quarantining at home — Orth’s response was a familiar one.​

“We’re going to work for you — so please stay home,” she said. “We are an extension of the hospital system and care for people in a similar way. [Staying home] protects the people that are coming to our campus every day to care for our residents, so; therefore, that is what protects our residents.”