Researchers at the University of Michigan say nursing homes might respond better to a second surge of COVID-19 if they have strong formal relationships with local hospitals and health officials.
A new study looks at how three nursing homes in Washtenaw County responded to COVID-19 outbreaks in April.
Dr. Ana Montoya is a geriatrician at the University of Michigan, and also medical director at one of the facilities in the study. She says before the pandemic, her facility would hold quarterly meetings with university physicians and the local health department.
“Those relationships were really important, because we already knew each other, you know, we had been in contact already,” she said.
For example, the UM testing lab helped the facilities test all of their residents after they detected their first COVID infections.
These formal relationships also meant nursing homes had plans to isolate residents before COVID entered their facilities, says Dr. Montoya. When it became necessary to set up isolation units in these facilities, everyone from cleaning staff to nursing directors had a clear role.
“This was really, really teamwork,” she said. “And they did a terrific job with that. It had to be accomplished within a specific timeframe, and they were successful.”
Montoya encourages nursing homes across Michigan to develop these relationships, but acknowledges that doing so might be easier in Washtenaw County than more rural parts of the state.