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County's nursing home 'strike team' is getting national exposure

Emergency personnel and Rescue Squad workers set up a safety zone on the grounds of Cherry Springs Village in the spring. [PHOTO COURTESY OF HENDERSON COUNTY RESCUE SQUAD] Emergency personnel and Rescue Squad workers set up a safety zone on the grounds of Cherry Springs Village in the spring. [PHOTO COURTESY OF HENDERSON COUNTY RESCUE SQUAD]

Henderson County's medical strike team — a multi-agency effort formed in response to a deadly outbreak of the coronavirus at a local nursing home — was spotlighted last week in a New York Times story about the growing practice.

 

Formed by the county's emergency services, the team is made up emergency personnel, public health officials, medical doctors and nurses, chaplains and counselors and a public relations specialist to communicate with families, the Times story said. (Although the Times features a photo of Buncombe County emergency beside an ambulance, the story reports that Buncombe borrowed the idea from Henderson County when it had its own nursing home outbreaks.)

Henderson County officials formed the team in response to the covid-19 outbreak, which killed 10 people at the 60-bed Cherry Springs Village over a two-month period. Modeled on multi-agency teams that respond to hurricanes, floods and other natural disaster, the team moved quickly onto the assisted living center's campus to conduct rapid covid-19 tests, train nursing home personnel on safety and precautions and set up decontamination tents, the Times said.

“Calling emergency management made sense, because it was a disaster,” Dr. Anna Hicks, a Hendersonville geriatrician who helped coordinate the Cherry Springs strike team, told the Times. “It felt like being in a natural disaster.”

North Carolina Health News featured the strike team and its response at Cherry Springs Village in June.

At least seven other states have sent strike teams to residential care facilities with outbreaks, the Times said.