Some Sedgwick County nursing homes reopened to visitors

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:14 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A local petition, shared more than 24,000 times on social media, calls for hospitals and nursing homes to allow family members to visit patients. This week, that petition made its way to the Sedgwick County Commission as some local nursing homes reopen to visitors for the first time in months.

Wednesday, Sept. 23, county leaders didn’t come to an agreement on lifting local restrictions for the facilities, and state regulations also haven’t changed. What has changed are federal guidelines.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now say as long as there hasn’t been a new COVID-19 case in the last 14 days inside a nursing home, facilities can allow visitors. Temperature checks and masks are required.

The guideline change means some residents of local nursing homes are seeing visitors for the first time since March. Some nursing homes in Sedgwick County this week are celebrating what they consider a small victory.

“This is fantastic for us because we’ve been hearing from a lot of folks here for a really long time,” said Regent Park Nursing Home CEO Christopher Rea.

Families reunited after six months of talking through a window.

“We know it’s very hard on the families. We have personal communication with those families,” Rea said. “As staff, we are elated to get families in to see their loved ones.”

Now some of those families are asking nursing homes to relax restrictions farther, allowing those visitations in patients' rooms.

“My chief concern with not being able to visit your loved one in their room is the accountability that is removed,” said petition organizer Ann Hathaway. “I haven’t been in my parents' room for six months.”

She’s calling on Sedgwick County and the state to intervene.

“My message to (Kansas) Governor Laura Kelly is, ‘we need to step up, you need to step up,’” Hathaway said.

Since March, deaths in nursing homes have accounted for a large percentage of deaths in Kansas. Data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows about 80 percent of the state’s COVID-19-related deaths involved patients who were at least 65 years old.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities adopted restrictions to keep patients and staff safe and administrators at local facilities said if they didn’t follow the guidelines, they could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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