The medical director of the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center said a tear came to his eye today as he walked through the center’s COVID-19 isolation ward.
Dr. David Thimons said the 25 people currently housed in the unit – including 13 confirmed coronavirus cases, one inconclusive who will be tested again, and 11 with test results pending – looked much better to him. Some were off oxygen, some were walking around and talking.
Four more center residents who are in the nearby Heritage Valley Beaver hospital also appear to be doing better, Thimons said. He expects one or two of them to return to the center in the next couple of days. He’s sees it as a possible turning point in the center’s outbreak.
“For the first time in three days, I felt hope,” Thimons said.
On Thursday night, the first coronavirus victim was diagnosed at the center, Thimons said. On Friday, there were 10 positive diagnoses. On Sunday, there were another nine. They were joined in the isolated unit by residents exhibiting symptoms who had been in rooms with residents who tested positive.
Thimons said there is no way to know how the virus entered the building. He said patients regularly are transferred to and from the nearby hospital and for dialysis, and staff members could also unknowingly carry it. “We will see it at many more nursing homes,” he said.
Thimons said staff at the Brighton Township facility was already strictly adhering to government guidelines, but the center also contacted national experts for guidance on best practices, as well as officials at the Washington State nursing home that suffered 35 coronavirus deaths related to their facility earlier this month. He said Brighton Rehab learned from the Washington facility’s experience.
Then, overnight, two patients died.
Thimons said the patients suffered from advanced dementia and were already in hospice care. He said that family members asked that they remain at the center and be allowed to pass peacefully and in comfort.
Thimons has been on staff at the Brighton Township facility for the past 18 years, the past four or five as medical director. He praised the center’s staffers and the community for their support. “The people of Beaver County have been amazing,” he said. He said the center “has received so many donations,” and many good thoughts and wishes.
Thimons said he’s not aware of any staff members being sick. But staffing will be a concern going forward.
“Every nursing home in the state has this concern about staffing levels at this point,” Thimons said, adding that the center is doing its best to be supportive of its team as it can. He said center administrators have been and his practice has been sending meals to staffers all week, “to let them know we value them.”