Local facilities restore visitor access for nursing home residents under new guidelines

by Kate Shunney

Family and friends of patients in the Berkeley Springs Center rehab and nursing home and those in War Memorial Hospital’s Long Term Care Unit can begin scheduling visits to those patients again under new national and state guidelines.

Stonerise, which operates the Berkeley Springs Center, announced the change in visitor policy last Thursday.

War Memorial Hospital officials confirmed on Monday that their visitor’s policy will allow in-person visits, too.

Last spring, nursing homes were some of the first facilities to close to the public as residents were considered at the highest risk for being infected and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Families of War Memorial Long Term Care patients should be receiving a letter soon with information about visitation policy. The hospital will allow immediate family members or a resident’s representative to visit, up to two people at a time, for 30 minutes. At first, visits will be kept to one visit per week unless there are open visit slots that go unfilled.

“Staff appreciates how patient residents and families have been with the restrictions. We need still need to be vigilant,” said long-term care nurse Shawna Athey.

Residents of War Memorial Hospital’s Long Term Care unit with blankets made for them by the Keyser High School Key Club.

Berkeley Springs Center

According to Stonerise COVID Patient Testing Dashboard, the Berkeley Springs Center has 81 patients, with no positive tests for COVID-19.

Stonerise officials said patients will be allowed up to two visitors at a time. Visits will be by appointment only and will be arranged to take place in an area designated for the visits.

Under the new visitation rules, visits will be set for 30 minutes at a time so that all patients have an opportunity to have visitors.

Visitors will be screened for illness symptoms before being shown to a visiting area, and must wear a mask or face covering during the visit. Social distancing and hand hygiene will be enforced inside the center, said company officials.

“While Stonerise is actively preparing to welcome visitors back to its centers, the provider is also cautioning community members that visitation will initially follow these protocols for the protection of patients and employees,” said a Stonerise spokeswoman.

The new visitor policies come after the release of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) memo that has guidelines for allowing more visitation for patients while centers still adhere to COVID-18 precautions and protocols.

“This is a pivotal announcement for everyone in the Stonerise family, from patients and their families to our care teams,” said Larry Pack, Stonerise Chief Executive Officer. “We are approaching in-person visits with the same focus on safety and overall wellness as we have taken at every point during the pandemic so far. Everyone in West Virginia can support this progress by maintaining the safe behaviors necessary to keep county positivity rates below the 10 percent threshold to allow in-person visitation to continue.”

The West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure & Certification’s (OHFLAC) recently said in-person visits are allowed at the state’s long-term care centers as long as a facility has had no active COVID-19 cases for at least the past 14 days and their county positivity rate is below 10 percent.