Caring for Our Caregivers During COVID-19
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of our Lakemary staff and individuals served has been our top priority. Without a healthy workforce, we could not provide the vital support that children and adults in our residential programs need. Our COVID Care Team, which was established in early 2020, brought together a diverse group of employees to identify and enact several new measures to ensure a safe, healthy, and stimulating work environment for all Lakemary staff.
Prioritizing COVID-19 Testing
As the pandemic started to escalate in spring 2020, COVID-19 testing was not widely available. Only hospitalized patients could get tested due to limited supplies. Health care providers were advised to assume that patients with fever, cough, body aches or shortness of breath had COVID-19 and should quarantine at home for 14 days. As time went on, limited testing became available in the community. These local labs, however, became quickly overwhelmed with the number of specimens to process and the turnaround time for results was up to ten days.
“It was apparent early on that Lakemary needed to prioritize COVID testing for our staff,” said Dr. Gray, Medical Director at Lakemary. “Our medical team needed the ability to conduct rapid testing onsite and receive results in minutes rather than days in order to better inform decisions around treatment plans, quarantine times, and staffing.”
Lakemary supporters rallied around this need and generously donated to our COVID Response Fund, enabling us to order rapid testing equipment from our medical distributor. The equipment and testing supplies arrived in November, and all Lakemary staff can now get tested. Employees can sign up online for a testing time in either Olathe or Paola, and results are generally known in as little as 15-20 minutes. A dedicated testing professional was also hired to help administer and coordinate our COVID-19 testing. Donations to the COVID Response Fund are still needed in order to ensure we have an ongoing supply of tests available.
Enhancing Staff Safety
Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been vital for protecting our direct care staff and, in turn, the individuals we serve throughout this pandemic. Lakemary provides PPE to employees such as disposable gowns and hats, gloves, face shields, goggles, booties, surgical masks, and KN95 masks free of charge, and will continue to provide this equipment as recommended by the CDC. N95 masks have been extremely difficult to obtain, but soon the State of Kansas will provide N95 masks to congregate care settings like Lakemary. We will receive those N95 masks soon and distribute them to employees working in our COVID units. Those employees will undergo a brief medical exam and fit test to ensure that the masks fit correctly.
“Staff members are also screened daily prior to starting their shift,” says Dr. Gray. “Lakemary was one of the first local organizations to implement a daily screening process and transition it to online in order to increase efficiency and decrease exposure to our daily screening staff.”
Modified Onboarding for New Employees
New Lakemary employees are now required to undergo COVID-19 testing at the beginning of the onboarding process. This allows us to detect COVID infections before they have a chance to spread to other staff or individuals served. COVID pay is available for direct care staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19.
Looking Towards the Future
The arrival of the rapid testing equipment and addition of a dedicated testing professional have been huge in helping with infection control at Lakemary. In the next few weeks, all employees and residents will receive weekly COVID screenings and be able to get tested in order to keep COVID-19 out of our environments.
“We are anxiously awaiting information regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and dates of distribution for our direct care staff and individuals served,” says Dr. Gray. “Vaccine supply is limited at this time. KDHE, Johnson County and Miami County Health Departments are working hard to obtain vaccinations for Kansas long term care facilities, group homes, health care providers (including Direct Support Professionals and Behavioral Health Techs), first responders, and teachers. This is such an exciting time in the fight against COVID-19.”
If you would like to work at Lakemary and enjoy a rewarding career where you can make a positive difference in the lives of others, browse our open jobs, and apply today!