At a press conference earlier this week, state officials acknowledged that they’re aware of cases of COVID-19 at a number of New Hampshire health facilities serving the elderly or medically fragile — but they have declined to identify those facilities, citing privacy concerns.
NHPR has learned that Hanover Hill, a nursing home and skilled rehab facility in Manchester, is one of those facilities dealing with COVID-19. It is unclear how many patients, or staff, at the facility are affected at this time.
Hanover Hill has not returned repeated inquiries from NHPR seeking additional information.
At least two notices were sent this week to Hanover Hill residents’ family members disclosing the presence of COVID-19 and outlining steps the facility was taking to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, and those notices were shared with NHPR.
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The situation at Hanover Hill was also confirmed by New Hampshire Health Care Association President Brendan Williams, an advocate for long-term care providers. Williams said Hanover Hill seems to have taken appropriate steps to keep the families of its residents informed and the facility “has consistently been recognized as one of our state’s finest.”
Still, Williams said, Hanover Hill and similar institutions across the state are under “real strain” when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19 — due to shortages of personal protective equipment, direct care staff and tests that would allow the facilities to better identify those who might be unknowingly carrying COVID-19. Williams said people can donate unopened masks, gowns, gloves and other protective equipment to local nursing homes and other assisted living facilities through a newly launched website, protectcaregivers.com.
Like many nursing homes, hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the state, Hanover Hill has in recent weeks been asking for donations of personal protective equipment for its staff and advertising for several open positions on its nursing team.
The federal government instructed nursing homes several weeks ago to restrict almost all visitation and cancel communal activities like group dining. State health officials have also offered guidance to facilities on how to prevent or control the spread of COVID-19.
But Williams said “it’s increasingly challenging with community transmission growing exponentially.”
“Despite our best efforts, the shortage of tests have made them all-but-inaccessible to residents and staff,” Williams said. “Optimally, there would be widespread testing to surveil virus spread in communities.”
Hanover Hill is not the only facility of its kind fighting COVID-19 at the moment. The state has confirmed that several residential facilities serving the elderly or medically fragile have had the coronavirus spread there. But top state officials, including Gov. Chris Sununu, have said it would be wrong to publicly identify them.
Earlier this week, officials at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield confirmed that COVID-19 caused the death of at least one of its residents and infected five others.
Dr. Ben Chan, New Hampshire’s state epidemiologist, said at a press conference Wednesday that the state is providing support to “a number of facilities” touched by the coronavirus but declined to say how many. The state’s assistance includes in-person evaluations, assessments done via teleconferencing and help securing protective gear.
Sununu, at the same press conference, said it would be improper for the state to identify facilities with documented outbreaks of COVID-19.
“Those facilities we are working with on the individual level, and again, if they wanted to release their information, I suppose that’s up to them,” Sununu said. “But that’s not the role of the state to identify them.”