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Huntsville resident asking for rapid-testing machine at nursing home

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A nursing home facility has seen 76 residents test positive for COVID-19, and a family member of one of those residents is asking for a rapid-testing device to help slow the spread.

Maureen Lokken is the niece of a 92-year-old resident of the long-term care facility Signature Healthcare of Whitesburg Gardens. Her aunt was diagnosed with COVID-19 this past week.

“The test results must dribble in because I got a call Friday night, late, 10 o’clock that my aunt tested positive the previous Tuesday,” said Lokken. Testing began at the facility months ago, but Lokken says she and the nursing home director was concerned about the turnaround time of the tests.

Rapid COVID-19 testing machines provide results in 5 to 15 minutes, much faster than current wait times, but only two nursing homes in Madison County have them. That’s why Lokken is looking to get one of those machines to Signature Healthcare.

“Currently, a test is done once a week on the staff and the patients and you wait for the results,” said Lokken. “So you know if the patient was negative that day, but they don’t get results until 6 days later… they could have contracted the virus the next day after the test.”

According to the Centers for Medicaid, facilities are prioritized to receive the point-of-care device based on certain criteria including:

  • Three or more confirmed or suspected new cases of COVID-19 in the last week
  • At least one new COVID-19 case in the last week after having zero previous COVID-19 cases
  • Inadequate access to testing in the last week
  • At least one new resident death due to COVID-19 in the last week
  • At least one new confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case among staff in the last week

Signature Healthcare of Whitesburg Gardens has a hotline set up with current status of COVID-19 numbers.

As of Monday, Aug. 31, the long-term care facility has seen:

  • 76 residents test positive with 26 in the last 14 days and 15 cases in 24 hours
  • 28 staff members test positive with 8 in the last 14 days and 5 new in 24 hours
  • 9 resident die, 4 of which were on Hospice
  • 52 residents recover
  • 23 staff members recover

“My gosh, who could qualify more than us? Now I’m looking at 50% positivity,” said Lokken. She adds that now, she would like to see the facility have a rapid testing machine.

“If we would have had that, at any given time, before now, and we don’t have it now, we could have prevented, possibly, the nine deaths,” said Lokken.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded its list of nursing homes to be allocated rapid COVID-19 testing machines at the beginning of August. The list includes eight nursing homes in North Alabama.

The facilities receiving the devices include:

  • Brookshire Healthcare Center in Huntsville
  • Windsor House in Huntsville
  • Senior Rehab & Recovery Center at Limestone Health Facility in Athens
  • Mitchell-Hollingsworth Nursing & Rehab Center in Florence
  • Cottage of the Shoals in Tuscumbia
  • Falkville Healthcare Center
  • Decatur Health & Rehab in Morgan County
  • Albertville Nursing Home

Read MoreWHNT.comCoronavirus, Huntsville, News

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