Ohio nursing homes enact new coronavirus safety measures

Visitors restricted, screened
Nursing home
Posted at 4:34 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 18:38:05-04

CLEVELAND — Nursing homes across Ohio are moving swiftly to enact new safety measures to protect patients and staff in wake of potentially deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The new steps include restricting visitors to one per day, screening all who enter nursing homes, use of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gown, plus keeping staff who are sick at home.

While News 5 learned about these steps before Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's news conference Wednesday, they are closely in line with the order he announced he would be making to limit visitors, monitor points of entry and keep visitors logs at Ohio's nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

RELATED: Gov. DeWine issues order limiting visitors to nursing homes, assisting living facilities

The new safety measures come on the heels of the spreading coronavirus pandemic that has been linked to 19 deaths at a Seattle nursing home.

An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation reviewed the most recent inspection reports for Ohio's 958 nursing facilities and found more than one-third, 383, were cited for failure to provide and implement infection control measures.

"We are taking this very seriously, " said Peter Van Runkle, Executive Director of the Ohio Health Care Association that represents nursing homes across the state.

But Van Runkle also says while "infection control is the number one cited deficiency," it does not mean patients are getting sick.

"Infection control encompasses a broad range," says Van Runkle, " so the notion that someone was cited--that one its patients got sick or that there was an infection that was rampant in the facility--is not accurate."

Instead, he says the vast majority of violations are related to paperwork, rules and procedures.

Still, infection control is being dramatically stepped up in nursing home across the state.

"One is keeping the infection from coming from the outside," says Van Runkle, "the second is preventing the spread of the infection within the facility."

In addition, the federal coronavirus task force is dispatching thousands of inspectors to nursing homes in Ohio and nationwide.

The task force, headed up by Vice-President Mike Pence, is "raising standards for every nursing home with regard to infectious disease and deploying 8,000 inspectors in every state."