Park Manor Rehabilitation Center

Park Manor care facility in Walla Walla is dealing with a substantial outbreak of COVID-19.

Despite efforts by Park Manor Rehabilitation Center’s administration, the Walla Walla long-term care facility has had a substantial outbreak of COVID-19 affecting residents and employees.

The situation has created a “hellish” scenario, one resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution.

Employees of the care facility on Plaza Way have also told the Union-Bulletin about the virus outbreak. None were willing to speak on the record.

In an internal email Saturday supplied to the newspaper, Park Manor Executive Director Ben Flinders said of the 77 people who live there, 58 have tested positive for the coronavirus, as have 28 staff members.

On Monday, Flinders said the vast majority of residents have recovered or are recovering.

Park Manor’s administration has “bent over backward” to protect residents, said Dr. Larry Jecha, public health officer for Walla Walla County.

“They have been testing and testing.”

Jecha said last week he cannot vouch for specific COVID-19 numbers from Park Manor, but that no matter the precautions of any facility, employees can bring the virus in.

In response to Union-Bulletin questions via email about the outbreak, Flinders did not verify numbers but said the Park Manor staff and administration is “singularly focused” and committed to safety and the health of residents.

Case reporting, testing, patient transfers and other virus-related decisions are being guided by local, state and federal government health professionals, he said.

Cleaning, staff testing and situation monitoring has all been ramped up to meet the demand of the pandemic, Flinders said.

“We are working very hard to do the right thing for our patients, their families and our staff, every single day.”

The anonymous resident said COVID-19 had cropped up at the rehabilitation center in June. Nineteen people were labeled as exposed after an employee tested positive and had contact with residents.

It is unknown to the Union-Bulletin how many of those cases resulted in positive tests.

“Conditions for the 77 residents have been hellish during the outbreak,” the resident said. “We have been confined to our rooms, denied showers or fresh air during much of the pandemic.”

The lack of ability to access proper hygiene is particularly egregious, the resident said.

With many staff quarantined at home after testing positive for the virus, care for residents has deteriorated, the resident said.

Many residents who suffer cognitive decline spend the day crying for help or in fear as staff go in and out of rooms nearly unrecognizable in masks, face shields, protective robes and gloves.

“The point of human contact has been greatly reduced. It makes people uncomfortable,” the resident said.

Since those who live at Park Manor are under lockdown, virus contamination has to be coming into the facility, the resident said.

The current Park Manor outbreak began just over two weeks ago.

Flinders said Park Manor has partnered with doctors to provide a model of care to its virus-positive patients intended to get them beyond just recovery from COVID-19.

“The results we are seeing speak to the effectiveness of the clinical interventions, as approximately 81% of the COVID-19 residents currently in the facility are actively recovering or have recovered,” according to the criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the administrator said.

Recovery is not the same as living, the resident said.

“One of the great tragedies of this century is this pandemic. It has impacted people most vulnerable,” the resident explained, noting most Park Manor residents don’t have the cognitive ability to use virtual platforms to communicate with loved ones.

“I think we feel all quite alone.”

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Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 509-526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.