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Chateau St. James is COVID-19 free: Nurses & CNAs proud to reach milestone

LUTCHER — This week’s balloon release was a sign of celebration for the staff of Chateau St. James Rehab and Retirement Home in Lutcher. Thanks to the tireless, persistent work of the frontline nurses and CNAs, the facility is now COVID-19 free.

Social Services Director Anna Hionakis said she was proud of the staff for braving the pandemic and fighting to keep vulnerable residents safe.

“We are vey grateful to our nurses and certified nursing assistances who continued to work throughout this difficult time taking care of our residents,” Hionakis said.

All employees came together for a positive impact, Hionakis said. As housekeeping continued sanitizing and cleaning the building, directors worked together to encourage residents and facilitate FaceTime calls with families.

“We also had a lot of support from the community, donating items and delivering food for our staff,” Hionakis said.

The staff at Chateau St. James in Lutcher had to come together to protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Team members are pictured at a small gathering outside the facility.

Tammy Hill, LPN, was one of the nurses who cared for patients in the isolation unit. She stayed safe and healthy during the COVID-19 response by wearing personal protective equipment and limiting her exposure to the outside world. For months, her schedule consisted of traveling between work and home.

“It’s been a chore, but everyone pulled together and got it done. It was a lot of moving around and making sure the patients were safe,” Hill said. “We set up a separate unit apart from the rest of the facility, so the patients that tested positive went to that unit.”

Being a novel virus, COVID-19 certainly came with a learning curve.

“Things happen fast. Everybody doesn’t know everything, and you learn something new about the virus every day,” Hill said. She added that the staff is “very proud and happy” to know that the facility now has zero active cases.

Chateau St. James fared well even at the height of the pandemic, according to Administrator Casey O’Banion.

“The past few months started out hectic. We got a good footing pretty early on, we got a good hold on what our policies and procedures would be, and we moved forward,” O’Banion said. “We’ve tried to make it as comfortable an experience as possible, and I think that’s really helped our success here. Our residents’ rate of survival is very high for the country and for the area because we think that we’ve done a good job of keeping everyone happy, comfortable and busy.”

Apart from the challenge of keeping the virus contained, the Chateau St. James team was challenged to help residents maintain a sense of social interaction without traditional family visits. O’Banion said the activity director and the social services director were instrumental in keeping residents occupied and happy. Increasing communication with families has been another goal.

“Families can talk through a window, but that’s not always the best case scenario for a lot of people,” O’Banion said. “You want to be able to touch and hug your family. Our families have done a great job of understanding that what we’re doing is the best for the residents.”

Staff and residents are being tested on a weekly basis, according to Hionakis.

Located at 1980 Jefferson Highway in Lutcher, Chateau St. James offers hands-on care in a comfortable atmosphere. The 116-bed skilled nursing facility provides short- and long-term care with a range of nursing and rehabilitation services, including physical, occupational and speech therapy.