Hospice providers have ramped up staff screening procedures as the novel coronavirus swept its way across the nation earlier this year. The pandemic continues to build speed with spikes in cases and death counts. St. Croix Hospice is among the providers boosting their infection control procedures. The hospice recently implemented weekly COVID-19 testing among staff directly interacting with patients.
St. Croix Hospice is a portfolio company of Chicago-based private equity firm The Vistria Group. Headquartered in Minnesota, the company’s locations also span across Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Despite the economic downturn spurred by the pandemic, the hospice organization expanded its geographical footprint further in June, opening its second Iowa de novo in a two-month timeframe.
“Staff adherence to our superior infection control protocols have made a tremendous difference in limiting the spread of COVID-19,” said St. Croix Chief Clinical Officer Mandy Cogswell. “This weekly test will provide peace of mind to our field staff, our patients and their families, and health care workers at our partner facilities.”
Cogswell was recently named a Future Leader in the hospice field by Hospice News’ parent company Aging Media Network.
Like many other providers, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges for St. Croix Hospice heading into 2021. The launch of weekly testing for field staff enhances the hospice’s existing safety measures set in place during the outbreak, which additionally require that all employees perform daily self-screenings, daily temperature checks and monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.
Regular testing for the coronavirus disease will be key to maintaining a healthy workforce and minimizing risk of exposure among vulnerable hospice and palliative care patients as the pandemic continues. Early detection through screening measures plays a vital role in hospices’ ability to both continue reaching patients and respond to those who have been exposed, allowing providers to walk the fine line between protection and risk.
“The addition of this testing will significantly increase our ability to respond to positive cases quickly, which will increase safety and limit the spread of infection,” said Cogswell. “Our shared commitment to our patients and their families, to our own staff, and to our valued partners in the healthcare community, continues driving us forward.”
Competition to acquire COVID-19 testing kits runs high as health care providers of all walks fight to control and limit the pandemic’s spread. Access to testing has been critical in the ability for providers to support their workforce and continue reaching patients and families in need.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) tooks steps in April to expand virus testing in the home and community under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, waiving the rule requiring an order from a physician or licensed independent practitioner to seek Medicare reimbursement for testing.
CMS has since announced an interim final rule requiring hospice staff visiting patients in nursing homes to undergo routine coronavirus testing, with frequency determined by a region’s prevalence of COVID-19.