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North Arkansas Regional Medical Center Administration said Tuesday that the hospital is working closely with staff at the Newton County Nursing Home during what has been described as a COVID-19 “crisis.”

The NARMC Board of Directors met by Zoom on Tuesday. Hospital president/CEO Vince Leist and COO/CNO Sammie Cribbs gave board members a rundown on the hospital’s response to the situation.

Cribbs told board members that NARMC has been meeting routinely with nursing homes in the area to see what kind of equipment they might need and about the environment in their facilities.

When the Newton County Nursing Home was alerted to a problem last Wednesday, NARMC reached out to them and started delivering supplies they needed. That evening, they were on the phone with two doctors from the Arkansas Department of Health. NARMC worked with Newton County for testing of residents and staff, Cribbs said.

NARMC helped staff in Newton County initiate protocols based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control update July 15.

One thing guidance recommends is that patients do better in their home setting if at all possible. Because those residents live there, the nursing home is their home setting.

Leist said the hospital put together a team of doctors to help follow CDC guidelines in treatment and care of COVID-19 patients.

“Those same physicians have been in contact with the nursing home in Newton County, providing support and also providing direction when patients are too sick to stay there — we bring them here,” he said.

Leist also said he and Cribbs had a conference call scheduled with the Hospitals Association and the state Office of Long Term Care on Tuesday afternoon to assess resources that might be available to Newton County.

“We have put every effort we can into managing this situation so it doesn’t get out of control,” he said. “We’re next door to them and they’ve been partners with us for a long time. We’re now doing our best to be a good partner in dealing with their crisis.”

Cribbs said there has been some concern voiced on social media that the hospital is full.

“That is not true,” she said. “We are making accommodations to care for our community and to care for the patients we need to. We are working very closely with these agencies and especially the nursing home to make sure that they have the resources they need.”

Cribbs went on to say NARMC has reached out to critical care hospitals in the area regarding their capacity in case NARMC has to expand bed space. “What patients would they be able to take at a lower level of care?” she said.

Leist said he’d been made aware that some people in the community have been receiving letters regarding COVID-19 testing that never occurred.

He said that when NARMC tests people and the results are positive, a provider usually makes contact with them, most often by phone, to break the news. Two letters were sent to patients that staff couldn’t find.

“There have been no other letters go out of our organization,” he said.

Neither Gov. Asa Hutchinson nor acting state Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero offered any information on the Newton County Nursing Home situation during a Tuesday afternoon press briefing.

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