Health department voices concerns after state order allows transfer of nursing home residents

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Posted at 10:38 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 22:38:52-04

MUNCIE — The Delaware County Health Department is voicing its concerns after the state health commissioner signed an order Tuesday allowing for residents at long-term care facilities to be transferred.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box issued an order Tuesday which allows facilities to transfer, discharge, transport or relocate residents to reduce to spread of COVID-19. The moves must be done in collaboration with the state health department.

"The goal of the order is to help facilities group residents who have tested negative to protect them from infection and better serve residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 by allowing facilities to establish COVID-dedicated units, with approval of ISDH," a press release from the Indiana State Department of Health read.

The order supersedes any previous orders issued from county health departments, including an order signed by Delaware County Health Officer Dr. Donna Wilkins on April 4, stopping patients from being transferred to facilities in the county to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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The county order stopped the transfer of several patients who were found to have tested positive for COVID-19, said Delaware County Health Department administrator Jammie Bane in an email to long-term care facilities.

This halted what Bane said would have been a "local disaster."

"To put it bluntly, we believe this is a terrible idea, noble in purpose and intent, but extremely flawed in application," Bane said. "The very logic used to justify it is the same logic that could be used in opposition of every other message being broadcast concerning safety measures in place in our state's extended care facilities, and could actually be used to argue as to why the transfers are the worst idea when trying to contain the outbreak and protect our highest risk population."

Bane says the health department is working with a legal counsel to see if there are any powers which would allow them to challenge the order from the state.

Box says the order will allow for facilities to better care for residents, protect healthcare workers, and conserve personal protective equipment.

You can read the order Box signed Tuesday here.

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