Ten nurses from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs arrived this week at Meadowview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Northfield, and a similar number at Preferred Care in Absecon, the VA said Wednesday.
The two were among five New Jersey nursing homes chosen for the extra help, based on need and, in Meadowview’s case, its service to veterans.
“In discussions with FEMA, we talked about homes we were aware of that were impacted,” said Vince Kane, the VA’s Wilmington medical center director. “Meadowview ... (does) a great job of caring for veterans and prioritizing veterans. It made good sense.”
The two facilities have reported an increase in COVID-19 cases recently. Meadowview has 48 cases among its residents and 25 among its staff, with 10 resident deaths, state Health Department data show. Preferred Care has 84 cases among residents, 43 among staff members and 17 resident deaths.
“In times of crisis, the VA takes on the obligation of helping the country by helping communities,” Kane said.
“It’s been priceless for us,” said Michelle Savage, Meadowview administrator.
She said regular staff members stay home not just if they test positive but also if they have symptoms that may be COVID-19, such as a cough or sore throat.
“Folks are flying in from all over the country to help out,” said Cynthia Murray, of Galloway Township, nurse manager of clinical operations at the Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Northfield, which falls under the Wilmington VA. The nurses are from Baltimore and Salisbury, Maryland; Salem, Massachusetts; Reno, Nevada; and Fayetteville, North Carolina, the VA said.
Murray is the VA point person for both Meadowview and Preferred Care.
“We are so privileged to be able to come in and give back a little bit to an institution (Meadowview) that does so much for veterans of the area. It’s a remarkable institution,” Murray said.
For several years, Meadowview has qualified to provide nursing home care to local veterans near their homes and families, rather than requiring them to travel outside the area for a veterans home.
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Preferred Care in Absecon was chosen because a high number of its residents and staff have been affected by COVID-19, Kane said.
Murray also worked in critical care at the East Orange Veterans Hospital in North Jersey during the COVID-19 crisis, she said.
“The community hospitals and nursing homes were funneling patients to the VA,” Murray said “So we were caring for veterans as well as civilians in the area.”
This is the first time the VA has provided nurses to Atlantic County nursing homes, Murray said.
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“Normally it’s for earthquakes and hurricanes. It’s meant to supplement the civilian population health systems,” Murray said. “This is an entirely different type of national crisis.”
The only Atlantic County facility that has reported a staff death is the Egg Harbor Center in Egg Harbor Township, according to the state.
Hammonton Center for Health and Rehabilitation has by far the largest numbers of positive residents and staff, and is getting help from National Guard troops, a state Health Department spokesperson said recently.
Hammonton Center has 173 cases of COVID-19 among residents, 33 among staff and 35 resident deaths, the state reported Wednesday on its COVID-19 dashboard.
The other centers in New Jersey getting nursing help from the VA are Elmwood Hills Healthcare Center in Blackwood, Camden County, Premiere Cadbury of Cherry Hill and Water’s Edge Healthcare & Rehabilitation in Trenton.