Aaron Koelsch is the CEO of Koelsch Communities, operator of the Canyon Creek Memory Care Community in Billings. He sent a letter to Montana Governor Steve Bullock today to in his words "correct misinformation" about Canyon Creek and COVID-19. He responded to questions raised about testing their staff and residents and their response to positive tests to the coronavirus. As of today, 10 residents of the community have died from COVID related symptoms. Koelsch Communities has declined interview requests from Q2 News. The following is the full letter to Governor Bullock:
Dear Governor Bullock:
I am writing this letter to correct misinformation about the Canyon Creek Memory Care Community that has been disseminated recently. It is profoundly disappointing that the truth of what has happened and what is going on currently concerning COVID-19 in our senior housing community has been so distorted in the media.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our staff at Canyon Creek has worked diligently and tirelessly to limit the risk that COVID-19 would enter our community. Those efforts resulted in Canyon Creek remaining COVID-19 free from the implementation of our enhanced screening and monitoring protocols in mid-February 2020 until late June 2020. During that time, Canyon Creek adhered to the guidance of the Federal, State, and Local health authorities and continuously improved protocols to assist in the prevention of the acquisition or transmission of the virus in our community.
Also, during this time, testing of staff and residents did occur at Canyon Creek. Residents and staff were screened daily for any signs or symptoms related to COVID-19. Any staff displaying symptoms were not allowed in the community and were advised to seek advice from their health care providers. Residents who displayed signs or symptoms were immediately quarantined and tested for COVID-19. These tests were done in conjunction with RiverStone Health or at local hospitals. All of these residents tested negative during this period.
Canyon Creek is a memory care community. Many of its residents are unclear about their whereabouts and often struggle to understand why certain medical procedures are performed. The COVID-19 test is an unpleasant procedure even for persons who fully understand what is happening. For those who don’t, it can be frightening. Nonetheless, we proceeded to have all residents who may have been symptomatic tested under our rigorous monitoring and screening protocols.
Given the vigorous efforts at Canyon Creek to monitor and screen against the COVID-19 infection, the limited scope of the sentinel program and the potential impact of testing on residents, Canyon Creek, along with many other Montana providers, declined to participate in the voluntary sentinel testing program offered on June 16th.
On June 30th, a resident of Canyon Creek began to show symptoms of COVID-19. That resident was tested immediately and the results were positive. Following the resident’s confirmed positive case, Canyon Creek immediately arranged for the testing of all residents. Our community also went into quarantine under our preexisting protocols, and we continue to follow all recommended procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of our residents.
We continue to work closely with the local Health Department for ongoing testing. This testing has most recently been conducted on all residents and staff who had previously received negative test results and will remain a standard practice as we fight this viral enemy. Despite the recent negative headlines, families, staff, and local health providers have continued to provide strong encouragement and support for our community at Canyon Creek. Those people understand and appreciate our deep commitment to the health and care Canyon Creek has continued to show to our vulnerable residents.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a serious crisis. We tried very hard to prevent COVID-19 from entering our community. Once it did, we took immediate action to limit its impact, and continue to do so.
We are a critical part of the Montana senior care system. We are proud to be in Billings and Bozeman, and prouder to serve Montanans as they age.
In closing let me state that we are vigilant and high on alert. Our attention remains focused on serving our residents to the best of our ability. I am hopeful that this part of the story will be told as well.
President & CEO Koelsch Communities