Today Morningside Ministries, a skilled nursing facility (SNF) in San Antonio, announced that they are the first SNF in Texas, and second in the nation, to add the Xenex system to their infection control practices. This represents a groundbreaking approach to skilled nursing quality control: in a facility not required to report their infection rates, Morningside Ministries felt compelled to take the extra step to protect their residents from dangerous infections.
In a SNF of almost 180 beds, currently at over 95% occupancy, their daily goal is to treat as many rooms and common areas as possible with their germ-zapping robot, dubbed The Germinator by their staff. They meet this goal by treating each resident’s room biweekly, as well as dining rooms, nurse’s stations and their spa room and other shared areas nightly.
It’s already made an impact on their residents’ wellbeing. Their C. diff rebound rate, or the frequency that patients recover from C. diff and then relapse with it, has dropped to zero. New infection rates have plummeted, resulting in fewer readmissions to the hospitals they serve.
All this was news that we are extremely proud to be a part of, yet the most interesting discussion I had this morning was about the changing patient population in facilities like theirs. Alvin Loewenberg, their CEO of 24 years – and a professional in skilled nursing for about 35 years – told me that the patient population of nursing facilities is older, sicker, and requiring more acute care than ever before. “We used to take patients on an overnight fishing trip each year,” Loewenberg recalled. “Those patients were the same types of residents we treat today, but today’s residents are so much more frail and susceptible to infections.”
As we’ve improved medical interventions and extended our average lifespan, his staff explained, the required care for SNF residents may involve trachs, parenteral nutrition, and ventilator assistance. As hospitals adapt to new penalties for healthcare associated conditions (HACs), the SNFs see patients discharged sooner to their facility’s beds, and those patients are at a higher risk of developing infections. If the patient arrives without having been screened for an HAI at the hospital, the infection may be attributed to the SNF they enter, while it was most likely acquired at the hospital.
These factors create a more complex standard of care for long term care facilities. Never before have their patient populations been so vulnerable, and in the era of resistant superbugs, so at risk. But their patients have a choice among many competing facilities. Our own Director of Marketing at Xenex recently had to choose a SNF for her mother, and knowing that Morningside cared enough to add Xenex was the deciding factor for her family. “Studies show that customers choose nursing facilities based on their smell,” Heather Monroe pointed out, “but in evaluating cleanliness, shouldn’t we look closer at their infection control? My mom already has battled with MRSA; I needed to know that my choice for her wasn’t going to make the next years any more difficult. Knowing Morningside values patient safety, it made my decision clear to move my mom into their Chandler Estate location.”
Morningside is able to tell its area hospitals that the use of Xenex has brought down their rates of readmission, meaning when patients enter Morningside, they stay there without getting sick again. Hospitals can tell families this, and families can make informed decisions about their loved one’s next point of care.
Healthcare infection control is evolving and so are the superbugs. It’s encouraging to know that industry leaders like Morningside Ministries are seeking state-of-the-art solutions.
Rachael Sparks is the Technical Director at Xenex Disinfection Services and was previously a transplant specialist working with hospitals throughout Texas.