Troy Hahlbeck made it clear: He's protesting the rules regarding nursing homes in regard to COVID-19 — not the facilities, and especially not Stanton Health Care Center.
As he prepared for a protest on Wednesday afternoon outside of the Stanton Health Care Center, Hahlbeck praised his local nursing facility for their efforts, especially the care provided to his 82-year-old mother.
"The Stanton nursing home does a fantastic job," Hahlbeck said. "This protest isn't about them at all. It's about the rules that govern nursing homes. I could have this same protest in Valentine, where Sen. Fischer lives, but it's here in Stanton because I live here."
While many other facilities across Nebraska have reported internal COVID-19 cases, the Stanton Health Care Center has not had any positive cases, according to administrator April Johnston.
"Every day there is new guidance or new hoops that a facility must jump through," Johnston said. "Stanton Health Care Center is more than willing to jump those hoops, just at a slower pace. We can proudly say we have not had a positive case of COVID for staff or residents in this building. As we discuss jumping the next hoop, we watch as facilities around us open and then go back to being closed. We watch as families call our residents and say that a family member is in the hospital dying from COVID."
Hahlbeck said he understands all nursing homes must abide by the rules set forth by the government, which is why he phoned Sen. Deb Fischer at her home a few days ago, complaining about nursing homes in Nebraska not allowing visitors inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was Fischer who suggested the protest," Hahlbeck said. "I'm protesting the rules that govern all nursing homes. I want them to open up and families to be able to see their loves one who are there."
At the Stanton Health Care Center, multiple rules are in place to protect their residents. They've also found ways to provide to increase communication during this trying time, including by constructing a portable visitor's center. While Johnson said nothing is as ideal as opening their doors to the public, her residents continuously offer encouragement and appreciation for the efforts.
"When you sit down at the dining table to visit and a resident looks at you and says, ' You've done a hell of a job kid. You've kept us safe,' " that says a lot," Johnston said.
She said the State of Nebraska gives longterm care facilities direction and makes the "rules" on how to re-open. Johnston said she understands the frustrations felt by families, which is why she is grateful to have such support within the Stanton community.
"We thank you for trusting us in a such a critical time. Please pray for the safety and health of every resident, every team member, and each other's families," Johnston said. "We also agree that people should be heart. Just ensure the right people are listening. Elderly lives matter Write your local senators, congress, CMS."