North Caddo Medical Center, a Critical Access Hospital in Vivian, Louisiana, has made it their mission to provide comprehensive care for the rural areas of northern Caddo parish and surrounding communities. Great accomplishments have been made over the years for the medical center including recruitment of physicians, new and expanded services, as well as a brand new medical facility. During the time of COVID-19, NCMC has stayed true to its mission in serving their communities.

The local nursing home, though it is owned by another entity, is the home of many patients of North Caddo Medical Center as well as the loved ones of their communities. Nursing homes are known to house patients who are extremely susceptible to illnesses. Vivian’s local facility is no exception to this rule. The majority of their patients have had previous health struggles. Many who enter long term care facilities have already made their wishes known through advance directives due to their health complications. The vulnerabilities nursing home residents face are due to factors such as living in close quarters, the population’s age, and existing diagnoses.

COVID-19 had just made its way to Caddo when a resident presented with symptoms and then a positive test. Dr. Stephen Taylor, the nursing home Medical Director, knew a rapid spread would happen if action wasn’t taken. He then reached out to North Caddo Medical Center, where he has worked for 34 years as a Family Practice and Emergency Department Physician.

Realization of the importance of containing the outbreak and isolating the virus was no new information to David Jones, North Caddo Medical Center’s CEO. Mr. Jones had already had multiple meetings with his department heads about resources and procedures that would take place if there was an outbreak in the area. The hospital moved forward to assist the local nursing home’s staff in any way possible, including sharing their own, less than comfortable supply, of personal protective equipment (PPE). Though NCMC was in need of more PPE, the nursing home’s staff was beyond a critical need.

Dr. Taylor then presented the need for testing the patients and employees of the nursing home to identify positive individuals as well as establish a baseline measure. Mr. Jones & Dr. Taylor went to work to make this happen. North Caddo Medical Center was unable to provide the number of tests needed; therefore, Mr. Jones begin to reach out to tertiary care facilities in the Shreveport Bossier area. After lengthy communication with different facilities, North Caddo Medical Center’s partner, Ochsner-LSU Health, was able to obtain the near 100 kits for the Vivian nursing home. Their staff came to Vivian to test each resident and every employee.

Forty-eight hours later the results came in with the diagnosis of positive employees and residents. The imperative results allowed Dr. Taylor and the staff of the nursing home to isolate positive cases on one wing and other residents in a separate area, in an attempt to stop the further spread of the virus inside the nursing home.

North Caddo Medical Center’s next step was to establish a COVID response team. This team consists of an NCMC physician and an NCMC registered nurse or paramedic. When patients present with any symptoms that are abnormal to their typical health the nursing home staff contacts North Caddo Medical Center’s COVID response team. The team will go to the patient, at any given time (day or night), and give them an exam, as well as collect labs to be run at their hospital.

Dr. Ryan Harlacher, NCMC Physician, explained “We are happy to have the opportunity to provide care for the residents of our local nursing home. Many of them have low, or no mobility, and it would be a hardship for them to be transported to our facility for proper care. It is best that they can be comfortable, in their environment, and receive quality healthcare.” Harlacher also spoke of how appreciative the nursing home staff and residents are when they are present. “It is great to talk with the residents. Our conversations many times deviate from medical discussion to just talks about personal aspects of their lives. We just want them to know they are important to us.”

Since the outbreak, some residents have lost their lives after the diagnosis of COVID. One patient is still critical and others have either recovered or are stable at this time. North Caddo Medical Center, once again, reached out to Ochsner-LSU to obtain a retest of the nursing home residents. They were retested as a whole on Wednesday, April 15th. As of Wednesday the 15th, it had been 48 hours since a new patient has become ill with symptoms of COVID. This is a positive outlook and, hopefully, this will become the trend.

“There have been times, over the years, that we have worried about this sort of thing but it was never presented in our area. COVID-19 is here. This virus in our elderly population has been heartbreaking, to say the least. The trials that healthcare workers, patients, and family members have faced are new and unfortunate. Though we have struggled, I truly believe the outcome would have been much worse if it had not been for the help of North Caddo Medical Center and Ochsner LSU Health.” said Dr. Taylor.

The North Caddo Medical Center’s COVID Response Team will continue their assistance until the residents’ risk is extremely alleviated, according to Mr. Jones. He ended with, “Until then, we will continue to live out our motto, ‘I am NCMC & I care’”.