Local nursing home patient advocate, health expert address COVID-19 concerns

Coronavirus

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Some say not enough is being done to protect our most vulnerable and their caregivers.

As COVID-19 begins to spread more locally in our state, a nursing home advocate is calling on the CDC to add more guidelines for protecting patients and staff.

“We have a crisis right now, nursing homes in Oklahoma and across America are nuclear bombs waiting to go off,” said nursing home patients advocate Wes Bledsoe. “They are going to affect each and every one of us.”

Bledsoe says he has been advocating for nursing home patient rights since the death of his grandmother nearly 20 years ago.

Right now, the CDC and state health department are authorizing nursing homes and assisted living centers to restrict visitation.

However, Bledsoe is concerned that it will still spread inside and outside nursing homes, as many can be carrying the highly-contagious virus without even knowing it.

So, he’s encouraging more testing, more protective gear and immediate transportation of those who test positive. 

“Thousands and thousands of people are going to die inside and outside of nursing homes by following the CDC guidelines of nursing homes,” Bledsoe said.

Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Medicine Chief Quality Officer has been in close contact with the state and city-county health departments as they follow the CDC recommendations.

He says patients and staff in nursing homes need to be closely monitored. 

“The recommendation then would be early identification, to separate the patients as much as possible in the nursing home,” Bratzler said. “Don’t allow them to go into community settings, separate them from other people and do very early identification.”

Bledsoe is not a doctor or a health professional. He admits he’s just a guy who he says has done a lot of research, spent time advocating and wants to help. 

“If anyone has a better plan that what I just described, I will go for it, I will support it wholeheartedly but I have not seen any plan once someone is sick in the nursing home other than  we’re going to do it the same way we’ve been doing it for 20 years,” Bledsoe said. “That doesn’t work.”

Bratlzer says health officials are doing all they can to continue learning more about this virus.

For the time being, continue washing your hands and practicing social distancing, no matter how difficult.

“We need to protect the most vulnerable so as hard as it is – I know – they’re loved ones but don’t go to the nursing home until we get past this outbreak,” said Bratzler. 

Bratzler says tests and protective gear are hard to come by right now. 

OU Medicine is even using commercial labs to offload testing for the local health departments.

We’ve reached out to the state health department for further comment, but have not heard back at this time.

You can find their full guidelines on here.

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