A new skilled nursing facility near the campus of Jacksonville University is partnering with the state to accept long-term care residents with COVID-19.
Dolphin Pointe Health Care is working with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to isolate contagious COVID-19 patients that don’t require hospitalization, but risk spreading the virus at their home facilities.
At a news conference May 8 at Dolphin Pointe, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state’s new COVID-19 protocol aims to prevent outbreaks at other nursing and assisted living facilities.
“We have some facilities that have the ability to care for COVID patients and do appropriate isolation procedures. They have negative pressure rooms. They have the ability to isolate,” DeSantis said. “But we have far more that simply do not have the capacity.”
Dolphin Pointe opened April 14 and admitted its first coronavirus-positive patient, said facility co-owner Geoff Fraser in an interview after the news conference.
“There were no existing residents. That’s what made this a unique opportunity. We have the perfect setting for it, yet we didn’t have to risk any other elderly patients that were COVID negative,” Fraser said.
Dolphin Pointe now has 17 coronavirus-positive patients and will accept another seven in the next two days, DeSantis said.
A regional center
The Jacksonville-facility is a regional isolation center and has accepted patients from as far as Melbourne, DeSantis said.
AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew said Dolphin Pointe will be a model for COVID-19 containment and rehabilitation for long-term care residents statewide.
“I can’t tell you how important this facility is for our COVID-19 response,” Mayhew said. “While we reopen the state, this becomes even more important that we have the opportunity to make sure that two cases don’t become 20, that five don’t become 50, that we are able to transfer an individual who might need a little more clinical monitoring because they’re COVID positive.
“They need that isolation and then can safely recover and be returned to their homes in that skilled nursing facility or their assisted living facility,” she said.
Fraser said state health officials approached Dolphin Pointe owners early in the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, the state proposed using the facility as hospital overflow for noncoronovirus patients to free hospital bed space.
About 45% of Florida’s hospital beds are available, DeSantis said, but that will begin to decrease as facilities resume elective surgeries under the governor’s phase one reopening that began May 4.
DeSantis said the state requires hospitals to test all patients for COVID-19 before discharging them to long-term care facilities.
“(Mayhew) recognized early on that you could not tell hospitals to send COVID patients back to a long-term care facility that was ill-equipped to deal with a COVID-19-positive resident,” DeSantis said.
The governor’s announcement comes as pressure grows nationally to better track COVID-19 in long-term care facility residents, who are at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
U.S. Medicare Administrator Seema Verma said April 19 in a White House coronavirus briefing that the Trump administration would begin tracking facility outbreaks and deaths nationwide and make the data public, according to NBC News.
The news agency reports an estimated 13,000 long-term care deaths since that announcement. The White House has not released information.
Dolphin Pointe is partnering with regional hospitals for the COVID-19 containment program.
Frasier said the facility has accepted patients from Baptist Health, Memorial Hospital and Ascension St. Vincent’s Health System.
Dolphin Pointe Physicians Director Dr. Sura Jermanus also is a hospitalist at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside.
Fraser said she can track COVID-19 patients’ care as they leave the hospital through their recovery at Dolphin Pointe.
Fraser doesn’t expect the need to fill the facility’s 146-bed capacity, but Dolphin Pointe has the personal protective equipment, supplies and sterilization/safety policies to handle the caseload, he said.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t imagine we’ll grow over that,” Fraser said. “Our big thing is making sure anyone who is discharged from here we feel completely comfortable that they are (COVID-19) negative,” Fraser said. “We’re making sure that we’re ruling out false negatives.”
The front half of Dolphin Pointe is a clean space, where facility staff do food prep for patients.
The staff members also go through decontamination that is isolated from COVID-19 patients, Fraser said.
“We have a path for the staff to get to a section separate in the building, clean up before they go home,” he said.
Dolphin Pointe purchased robotics that saturate patient rooms with intense ultraviolet light to kill the virus after they have been sterilized with chemical disinfectants, Fraser said.
The 100,000-square-foot, two-story Dolphin Pointe facility in Arlington began development in 2016 and is part of Dolphin Pointe Landing, a 55-acre site owned by OLT II Inc. led by JU graduate Gregory Nelson, based in Dayton, Ohio.
Dolphin Pointe partners with JU, which recently completed a three-story, 105,000-square-foot medical arts and health sciences building on 6.6 acres at 3412 University Blvd. N.
By: Mike Mendenhall