Durham nursing home keeps COVID-19 cases low, but still called scene of ‘outbreak’

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Some nursing homes in the Triangle have been able to keep the number of COVID-19 related cases down, including Hillcrest Convalescent Center.

According to numbers released Tuesday by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, there are two cases of COVID-19 at the facility that are residents and there has been one death.

Ted Smith, CEO of the Hillcrest Convalescent Center, said one thing they have done to keep the number of cases down is they have created an admissions unit for new patients.               

“Those patients are closely scrutinized and monitored closely for their first two weeks when they come in,” Smith said.

He said they also make sure that they conserve their PPE so they do not run out.

Even after keeping the cases down to 1 percent, he is frustrated that the state and county health departments are calling this an outbreak.

According to NCDHHS, a COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases.

Smith said calling their two cases an outbreak is a bit extreme.

“It’s been very frustrating to struggle with this branding,” Smith said. “There are over 790 cases in Durham and these two former patients are no longer in our building. I think it doesn’t seem right as an appropriate definition for the word ‘outbreak.’ “

Smith said the branding has impacted their residents ability to schedule doctor appointments. He said that also fewer people may feel comfortable coming to stay at their facility as a result of the outbreak.

“We’re suffering financially because of this branding,” Smith said. “Don’t brand healthcare facilities and healthcare workers under a moniker that may not be true.”

Officials with NCDHHS classifying two more COVID-19 cases as an “outbreak” at a congregate living facility is based on the definition used for influenza outbreaks in long-term care settings.

Smith said all of the other residents and staff at the facility have been tested as well. He said so far all of the tests have come back negative.

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