There was not one single case of infection in Normafa Nursing Home. At the outbreak of the pandemic, it granted staff a pay rise and arranged for them to travel to work by car. Quick action was taken by introducing lockdown earlier than in other places in the country, banning visits, isolation and purchasing protective equipment, József Kuller, founder and owner of the institution, CEO and owner of Ingatlanbank Holding Zrt. told növekedés.hu.
Did the coronavirus infection appear in your institution?
No, in Normafa Nursing Home there was not one single case of infection: we could prevent both residents and staff from getting infected.
How did the pandemic affect you? How did the elderly react to the news of the virus, was there any panic among them?
We have 170 residents and it was obvious that they were afraid of the virus, but there was no panic.
I had ordered room quarantine for the whole institution well before official measures were taken nationwide, and it was well received by most of the residents.
As we have single-person apartments, the risk of infection could be reduced to a minimum.
Did you allow visits by relatives? How did relatives react to news about other nursing homes? Did they panic, or did they perhaps want to move their elderly parents out?
No. The introduction of the ban on visits was part of the lockdown measures and it proved to be the right step, which was accepted both by residents and relatives with understanding and discipline. As there is a large park surrounding the building and each apartment has a balcony, this gave residents and their relatives the chance to talk to each other ‘in person’, and not only over the phone.
How did you personally react to the news and to the fact that the virus was most widespread in nursing homes abroad and at home?
Action was taken in a quick and rational way. First of all, we had to strictly regulate how food suppliers and kitchen staff were moving in relation to the living quarters.
The measures we took included isolation, procurement and distribution of protective equipment and disinfectants. We also involved family members of our staff in our preventive measures by asking them to ensure that our nursing staff could avoid using public transport and could be taken to work by car instead. Families accepted this and it worked!
What kind of preventive measures did you take?
In order to be able to keep our staff, a 50% pay rise was granted to workers right away, which we called “Normafa Allowance”.
Even some of our residents made voluntary donations for this purpose. We immediately rearranged our processes so that those employees who are not necessarily and closely involved in nursing, such as directors and the accounting team could work from outside the institution, and the cafeteria and the swimming pool were closed down.
We purchased high performance disinfection machines. All incoming goods, tools and packages were kept in a separate room for 24 hours for disinfection. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner were placed on chairs outside the living quarters by kitchen workers wearing masks and protective equipment, and residents could collect their food and take it into their apartments.
After meals, dirty dishes were put outside the apartments and collected by the kitchen staff. As we are talking about elderly people, it is inevitable that some of them need to be hospitalized for some reason. So, as a precautionary measure we emptied 5 rooms where residents returning from hospital had to spend 2 weeks in isolation. In this separated area, nursing staff were only allowed to enter in full protective equipment.
Did you receive any central instructions? Were there any inspections? If not, do you think it would have been necessary?
Yes, we continuously received instructions from EMMI (Ministry of Human Capacities) and the Chief Medical Officer via email.
On one occasion the military disinfected all common areas - corridors, elevators and foyers.
Have you ever experienced such a crisis in nursing homes?
How much do you think people trust nursing homes now?
In places where the virus appeared, it will certainly be very difficult to regain trust. Normafa Nursing Home, which is absolutely virus-free, has no problem with sales. We have 10 new rooms waiting for elderly people who need institutional care.
When did you found your first nursing home and where did the initiative come from?
I founded the first home in 2000, while Normafa Nursing Home started in 2006, so it has been working for 14 years now. I have 20 years experience in residential care for the elderly.
I have always been convinced that this is the way of the future.
How big is this institution and how does it work?
It is a high-quality residential home with great residents: it has 170 rooms; it is located on 11,000 m2 in a 6-storey former hotel on top of Szabadság Hill. Apart from providing full board and medical and nursing services, we provide locally cooked meals four times a day, laundry and cleaning services, and also have a swimming pool, sauna, physiotherapy and a theatre, with fantastic performances.
Do you anticipate any business problems now? Did you have significant extra costs because of the hygiene measures?
Yes, institutions with fewer residents can face difficulties now. Dealing with such a dramatic situation costs a lot, but nothing is dearer than human life and the health and safety of our residents and workers.
Do you expect a second wave and if so, do you have any plans for such a situation?
Yes, I do expect a second wave. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so we are very careful with relaxing the rules, and prevention is still our first priority.