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Home health care nurse opens up about Ohio's Covid-19 crisis

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Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 18:09:54-04

CLEVELAND — It's 8 a.m. on a Monday and registered nurse Shauna Pavel is pulling up outside the home of one of seven patients she will be seeing by the end of her workday.

They are patients who may undergoing chemotherapy, recovering from surgery, requiring feeding tubes or ventilators, and all of them are at risk of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

But instead of immediately donning personal protective gear like gloves, masks and gown - Pavel will first have to assess whether the patient may have the virus symptoms.

Why? Because her agency, like hundreds of others across Ohio, are running so short on supplies of protective equipment that there is not enough to go around.

That means, if symptoms are evident, she has to immediately leave the home, call her manager, return to her office, get tested--then she can get a mask, gloves, and gown to return to her patient and provide care.

This is the new reality for home health care workers across Ohio--and it can have widespread consequence.

"Everyone is scrambling to get the supplies they need," says Pavel, who has upward of 30 patients whose cases and treatment she manages.

The Visiting Nurse Association that employs her cares for 1,200 across the state.

"Everything is on backorder," says Pavel. "Forcing us to evaluate patients on a case by case basis".

Her patients are home bound, afraid and know they are at high risk.

"It's terrifying for some because they see us acting differently."

Pavel warns it could begin to stress hospitals, fearful that "smaller agencies won't take new referrals or worse--some seeing patients if they do not have the equipment they need."

Plus, as more patient "visits" are conducted over the phone, home health care agencies are losing vital insurance reimbursements that cover only in home visits further placing financial strain on home health care agencies.

"Without home care, these patients will wind up back in the hospital and further stress the system."

Pavel is calling for donations of masks, gloves, etc. that dentists, orthodontists and veterinarians may have on hand and could be provided through donations@vnaohio.org.

She says that while its absolutely necessary that hospitals have the supplies they need, she is doing everything she can to keep patients safe at home.

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