North Texas hospitals, senior living facilities have plans in place to prevent spread of coronavirus

Hospitals and facilities for senior citizens are doing everything they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

There are plans in place for dealing with flu or epidemics, and what they are doing is modifying those plans to best deal with this virus.

Hospitals and nursing homes are limiting the number of visitors.

Adults 60 and older are among those most at risk of severe complications or death. Facilities that house vulnerable populations are re-examining their procedures to prevent an outbreak.

Hospitals across North Texas are now placing restrictions on visitors and making changes to how patients enter buildings.

President and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, Stephen Love, says hospitals are limiting the amount of entrances people can come through and they have screening processes at these points of entry.

“It could be a screening process where they want to check you for fever,” he explained. “It could be a screening process where they ask you what places you have visited, have you been exposed to the virus, etc.”

Parkland Health & Hospital System is limiting patients to one visitor. Baylor Scott & White says it’s limiting visitors but did not provide a specific number.

“It’s done to protect the patients, but it’s also done to protect the healthcare workers,” Love said.

A medical source tells FOX 4 that hospitals, like Scottish Rite and UT Southwestern, are not allowing any staff visitors to hospitals while telling staff to conserve gear like gloves and gowns. It’s also telling staff no wor- related travel outside the area.

“Our hospitals are doing fine. They have the capacity that they need,” Love said.

The Hospital Council says canceling large public events will help slow down the spread of the virus.

“We applaud the people in the community that are making decisions to limit crowds, to limit large events, to really strive to be an integral part of preventing the spread of the disease,” Love said. “The best way to deal with the coronavirus is to prevent it from spreading.”

Area hospitals have the ability to test, but there still aren’t enough available to test everyone who thinks they may be infected.

“Don’t come and expect to be tested just because you want to be tested,” Love warned. “There is a protocol that the clinicians have to go through and a checklist for a lack of a better term before they’re going to administer a test.”

The hospital council says your primary care physician should be the first medical professional to see if you’re experiencing symptoms. If you do not have one, urgent care or telemedicine are the next best options.

Inside the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center in North Dallas, they have a check-in process all visitors have to do.

A temperature screening, plus questions about their travel history.

“The first phase of our plan is really to monitor who comes and goes from our campuses,” said Tim Mallad, CEO of Forefront Living.

Forefront Living provides senior living services at the T. Boone Pickens Center, Faith Hospice, and Presbyterian Village North.

When a non-contact thermometer couldn't pick up Mallad's temperature, at first, even he couldn't get in.

“I asked them, ‘What happens?’ And they said, ‘You're not going to be able to come in,’” he said.                 

Nursing homes, hospice caregivers, and other senior living facilities nationwide are taking some of the highest precautions for COVID-19, which is deadliest among older adults.

It is a stark example of the risk is playing out at a senior care center in Washington. There have been 26 of their residents who have died since February 19.

At Forefront Living's facilities in North Texas, they are ready to take stricter measures, if necessary.

“Ultimately, if things escalate, we're prepared to stop trips off the campus,” Mallad said. “We've already stopped trips to the campus from groups from outside, and then ultimately limiting those large group gatherings and events.”

These types of facilities are in the toughest spot to safeguard a vulnerable population, and do what they can to navigate the pandemic.

“We're going to be doing some improvising. We're going to be doing some thinking on the spot, but it's not random, it's intentional,” Mallad said.

The CDC recommends that visits to senior living facilities are limited to people essential to that resident's emotional well-being and care.