Report praises Mexico Veterans Home's COVID-19 response

Report praises Mexico Veterans Home's COVID-19 response
According to a recently released study, the Missouri Veterans Home in Mexico took early steps to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. As a result, there have been far fewer deaths and cases in Mexico than at other facilities. [Nathan Lilley]
By: 
David Faries
Editor

On March 8, 2020, The Missouri Veterans Home in Mexico went into lockdown. On that day, supervisors at the facility began outlining policies and practices to limit the spread of the virus. They assembled what staff referred to as a COVID Bible, creating a resource that was readily accessible.

As a result, the home did not record its first positive test for a resident until late October.

“The Mexico Home has had generally good outcomes prior to COVID-19 and continues to manage the pandemic successfully,” said the authors of a comprehensive 415-page report from the Missouri Veterans Commission on the state’s seven veterans homes.

The report praised the Mexico facility and its staff for the steps taken throughout the ongoing pandemic, from its strict visitation policy to the establishment of a quarantine and isolation area containing six to eight beds.

Some of these measures have caused friction. Everyone who steps into the building must take a rapid test and regular testing of staff is mandatory. The report notes that some staff members rejected testing as an “infringement on their rights” and left the facility.

“Veterans have complained, as well, but are permitted to refuse testing,” the document says.

The report — which was ordered by Gov. Mike Parsons and conducted independently by Armstrong Teasdale — goes into great detail on measaures taken by each home and the results.

Two residents died from COVID-19 related causes at the Mexico facility, the first being recorded at the beginning of November. From the start of the pandemic to mid-November, when Armstrong Teasdale completed its investigation, 21 veterans and 16 staff members in Mexico had tested positive.

By comparison, there have been 34 deaths at the facility in Cameron, 29 at Cape Girardeau, 21 in St. James, nine at the Mt. Vernon home and seven in Warrensburg.

Only the veterans home in St. Louis has performed better than Mexico, with just 15 cases and one death.

“COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges to every long-term care facility in the nation and the external investigation report provides a valuable, unvarnished, independent review of the Missouri Veterans Commission’s response to the pandemic,” MVC chairman Timothy Noonan said in a prepared statement.

Investigators were unsparing. Mexico initially allowed visitation with masks, and social distancing strictly enforced. Supervisors at the facility did not follow other homes in creating a hand holding station. While virtual gathering are encouraged, families are now allowed into the home only for end-of-life scenarios.

The visitation policy has caused an increase in cases of depression. The report notes that there has been an increase in deaths at the home not related to COVID-19. Investigators speculate that some of these may be due to loneliness and depression.

In some cases staff members have relented and allowed veterans to walk around the building.

But the facility received high marks from the Resident Council, citing the consistency of assigning the same health care providers to the same module, a family-like atmosphere between staff and residents, decent food and an emphasis on sanitation and safety.

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