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East Coast operator leads more than 3,000 COVID-19 patients to recovery

Training staff and quickly adapting to new coronavirus guidance from the federal government have been instrumental for CareOne’s success in treating and recovering more than 3,000 of patients during the current public health crisis.

“We didn’t know exactly what we were dealing with, but based on the information that we had, we gave our staff the tools to be prepared to deal with what was coming,” said Toya Cornelious, CareOne chief clinical officer, in a McKnight’s interview.

The New Jersey-based company, which operates a chain of more than 50 post-acute care and assisted living facilities along the East Coast, has taken care of about 4,000 coronavirus patients and had about 85% of them recover.

Early on during the pandemic, CareOne quickly began to provide additional staff training for specific units and buildings in preparation of taking in and caring for coronavirus patients coming from hospitals.

That meant staff members had to learn how to care for COVID-19 patients, bringing in more equipment, like negative pressure systems, and learning new methods of care for advanced respiratory conditions.

“A good portion of what we do is post-acute care and getting people well to go home on a regular day, pre-pandemic,” Cornelious explained. “So for that piece [staff] was already well-versed in. It was just applying that to the pandemic and caring for these people who some of us were just unprepared to care for.”

The success didn’t come without struggles. Cornelious explained there’s a continuous need to pivot as new information about the virus becomes available and federal guidelines change. She noted for example, that recommended methods of care and treatment for coronavirus patients are constantly changing.

Cornelious said CareOne’s leadership team wants to ensure “that we are always on top of and working even above the standards that are applied to this virus.”

“Of course, there were times where [staff members] were getting sick, so we had to make sure that we had enough support to care for the staff. With the support from our senior leadership, we were able to support our staff in making sure that we always had enough [personal protective equipment] and that we always had the appropriate amount of staff to care for the residents,” she added.

Executives also praised staff members for their dedication to help the thousands of patients recover.

“It’s been pretty extraordinary, the work that staff has done in terms of putting themselves at jeopardy and the sacrifices they’re making professionally and personally,” noted Thomas McKinney, senior vice president of CareOne in a McKnight’s interview. “I just want to make sure we underscore that.”

He added that as the virus continues to move throughout the country, it will be important that the industry “look to those providers who have had significant experience dealing with the virus to hopefully learn and continue to improve our approach within the post-acute care industry.”