Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

MILTON — A Pennsylvania National Guard team deployed to Rockwell Retirement & Community Arts Center in Milton on Friday to provide assistance as the facility manages a COVID-19 outbreak.

LTC Keith Hickox, the state public affairs officer, confirmed that the decision was made to deploy 12 guardsmen to the facility at 32 S. Turbot Ave., Milton. The most recent data from the state Department of Health shows that the facility has less than five positive cases for both residents and staff and no deaths.

The countywide database that is updated daily by DOH officials with facility-specific, has shown some recent increases in Northumberland County.

“We have a mission scheduled to end on May 6,” said Hickox. “As these things go, it may be extended on an as-needed basis. Our staffing support team consists of a combination of medical and general-purpose personnel.”

The medical personal can assist with non-acute care of patients while the general-purpose personnel can assist with a wide variety of tasks such as cleaning, meal delivery and keeping the facility functioning, said Hickox.

Ali Fogarty, the communications director with the Department of Human Services, said the department and its partners through the Regional Congregate Care Assistance Teams (RCAT) program are assisting staff and residents of the Rockwell Retirement & Community Arts Center personal care home in Milton.

“The RCAT program provides support with COVID-19 testing, staffing assistance, and rapid response in the event of an outbreak at a long-term care facility,” said Fogarty. “The National Guard is also on site to assist. To protect the privacy of individuals and the confidentiality of personal health information, we cannot disclose additional details at this time.”

Rockwell Administrator Denise Leidecker said on or about April 16, several employees tested positive for COVID-19.

“As we all have learned this past year COVID can spread quickly and furiously,” she said. “However, as soon as we were notified of multiple staff testing positive, we contacted and reported this to the proper agencies. Within 48 hours the National Guard and GHR, Geisinger RRCAT program arrived with nurses and general help until our employees return. We follow the CDC guidelines as to when employees may return to work.”

Under the direction of the National Guard and GHR COVID zones have been set up throughout the facility. Both agencies are providing the facility with PPE retraining as well, said Leidecker.

“We are thankful for the National Guard and GHR,” she said. “We are conducting weekly testing of all staff and residents. We ask all family and friends to be patient with us while we navigate through this rocky time. Rockwell will persevere.”

The facility has a capacity of 224 residents. On March 19, the state Department of Human Resources indicated that they received the facility’s Dec. 8 renewal application to operate. A regular license was issued in response to its application. The Department will conduct an inspection of Rockwell within the next 12 months, according to the letter.

An inspection report from the state in November 2020 indicated the facility took corrected two previous violations and was in compliance with the state.

“The home did not have the required direct care hours scheduled for the following dates that was reviewed. The home was required to have 59 direct care hours scheduled on 08/30/20 and the home scheduled 52.5 hours scheduled for direct care staff hours. On 09/05/20 the home was required to schedule 62 direct care staff hours and the home scheduled 60 direct care hours,” according to the report.

“The home did not schedule the required direct care waking staff hours on 08/30/20 and 09/05/20. The home was required to have 44.5 waking hours on 08/ 30 /20 and the home scheduled 37.5 direct care staffing waking hours. On 09/05/20 the home was required to have 46.5 direct care waking hours and the home scheduled 37.5 direct care staffing hours,” according to the report.

Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Sam Schiccatano said the county was notified Friday morning of the outbreak and deployment.

“It’s been brewing for two weeks,” said Schiccatano. “It got to a point where the National Guard was called out. We’re assisting in any way we can.”

By senior