Nursing home voices concerns as Md. facilities reopen to visitors

As Maryland proceeds with its coronavirus reopening plan, visitation is now allowed to resume at nursing homes — but concerns over whether they are properly equipped for adequate testing has one facility calling the decision premature.

The updated restrictions on visitation announced by Gov. Larry Hogan will only allow outdoor visits, small group activities and limited communal dining at the state’s nursing homes.

Facilities are advised to limit visits to two people per resident, and staff must also have personal protective equipment and be tested before each shift.

Conditions that must be met before allowing visits include:

  • The facility must not be experiencing an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.
  • Absence of any facility-onset COVID-19 cases within the last two weeks.
  • No staffing shortages, and the facility must not be under a contingency or crisis staffing plan.
  • Universal source control is in place, requiring all residents, staff, and anyone else entering the facility to wear a face mask or cloth face covering at all times.
  • Staff must have access to adequate PPE.
  • Nursing homes must be able to conduct COVID-19 testing among residents and staff at sufficient frequencies

Once all requirements are met and visits resume, guests and residents must wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing requirements.

But Wanda Waddy, director of medicine at the Sacred Heart Home Nursing facility in Hyattsville, calls the decision premature.

“Gowns, gloves, masks — those things are on back order. It’s unrealistic based on where we are today,” she said.

Waddy expressed concern around the still-rising number of cases in Prince George’s County and said that as the state begins to reopen, knowing whether visitors may be carrying the virus is difficult.

“We really can’t do anything until we get the surrounding community under control,” Waddy said, suggesting a town hall-format meeting with officials would help communicate the needs of nursing homes, which include more testing resources.

Facility administrator Sister Vacha Kludziak fears the new requirements on top of current regulations will stretch staff thin.

In response, Hogan’s office said the facility had already requested and been sent follow-up tests and that state and local health departments were working closely with nursing homes to ensure a safe reopening.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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