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Nursing home operator responds to concerns about COVID-19 numbers

Westside Village has had 24 test positive and 6 deaths
Westside Village.JPG
Posted at 4:44 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 16:45:22-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A nursing home operator is responding to a Call 6 Investigation that raised questions about whether the facility is providing adequate information to families and the public.

Long-term care COVID-19 deaths make up 41% of all COVID-19 deaths in the state of Indiana, yet the Indiana State Department of Health is still not publicly releasing where those COVID-19 cases and deaths are happening.

Last week, RTV6 told you about Pam Ellis and her mother Carolyn Dolph, who has tested positive for COVID-19 at Westside Village Health Center on West 10th Street, which is operated by Life Care Centers of America.

Pam Ellis showed RTV6 an email from Westside Village that was dated May 5, it read: “We have 15 positive cases of COVID in the facility. Staffing is looking good. Still at 6 deaths related to COVID.”

PREVIOUS | Indiana’s lack of COVID-19 info leaves families wanting answers

However, Ellis said the numbers did not match what the staff told her.

Call 6 Investigates reached out to Westside Village and LCCA and we received a response on Tuesday afternoon, which says as of May 12, 24 residents have tested positive, 6 have died, and 8 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and all have recovered and are back at work.

“We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the residents who died,” said Joshua Davis, executive director at Westside Village. “Our facility is a family, and we’re all working together to take care of our residents and each other. Communication with loved ones is important to us, and we are emailing updates to responsible parties on a daily basis. A member of the management team also calls responsible parties once a weekly, to offer additional updates and personally answer any questions they many have.”

Davis said they will continue to follow federal, state and local COVID-19 guidelines.

“As part of these guidelines, all our associates are screened when they arrive for work and when they leave, to ensure no additional sickness is brought into our building,” said Davis. “Anyone exhibiting symptoms is sent home and asked to contact their personal physician.”

FULL STATEMENT:

At Westside Village Health Center, the safety and well-being of our residents are our highest priority. The safety and well-being of our associates and our community are also paramount considerations in every action we take.

Since the notification of our first positive case of COVID-19, we have been committed to taking care of our residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. We also continue to partner with local hospitals and physicians to arrange the transfer of our COVID-19 patients to local hospitals for continued care when their condition requires a more acute setting.

As of May 12, here are the latest numbers regarding COVID-19 in our facility:

  • 24 residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
    • 6 of these residents have passed away.
    • 14 of the residents remain in-house and are being cared for on a dedicated hallway by a dedicated care team.
    • 2 of the residents have been transferred to a local hospital for more acute care and are continuing their recovery in the hospital.
    • One of the residents has been transferred back to the resident’s original facility for continued care and recovery.
    • One of the residents has been transferred back to the resident’s original facility for continued care and recovery.
  • 8 of our associates have tested positive for COVID-19. All of them have recovered, per CDC guidelines. After remaining home during their recovery, all 8 associates are now back at work.

We will continue to follow all CMS, CDC and state and local health department COVID-19 guidelines. As part of these guidelines, all our associates are screened when they arrive for work and when they leave, to ensure no additional sickness is brought into our building. Anyone exhibiting symptoms is sent home and asked to contact their personal physician.

"We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the residents who died. Our facility is a family, and we’re all working together to take care of our residents and each other. Communication with loved ones is important to us, and we are emailing updates to responsible parties on a daily basis. A member of the management team also calls responsible parties once a weekly, to offer additional updates and personally answer any questions they many have.
We will continue to work closely with the Indiana State Department of Health and the local health department and follow their guidance. We are thankful for their partnership and the support they’ve provided. We are also grateful for the outpouring of love we’ve received from the Indianapolis community." - Joshua Davis, executive director

Although the state has introduced new requirements that nursing homes notify families, there’s a new push to make COVID-19 nursing home data, broken down by facility, available to the public.

Pam Ellis said she believes Indiana nursing homes should be required to report all COVID-19 cases and deaths to the public. Even if its just making sure the information gets posted on the Indiana State Department of Health’s dashboard.

“I feel like it's really important because otherwise there could be deceit and cover-up and they might say ‘oh this was a natural progression,' instead of honesty that it is COVID related and not natural deaths,” said Ellis.

The state’s aggregate totals show the overall number of people who have died at Indiana nursing homes and long-term care facilities, but do not break down any of those numbers to the facility or even county level. They are also only released on a weekly basis, and do not break down dates or times of infection or death reports.

RTV6 has filed a complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor in an attempt to get the information, and PAC Luke Britt says he is looking into the matter.

Call 6 Investigates has also been and continues to reach out to county health departments across the state.

Some counties — Johnson, Boone, and Hamilton, for example — are releasing limited COVID-19 information about specific facilities.

READ | 54 residents at 6 nursing homes in Johnson Co. have died from COVID-19

Some nursing home providers have also been very transparent about their numbers, such as Trilogy Health Services LLC, which has created its own dashboard on COVID-19 cases.

But by and large, the public is still not seeing this information and does not have access to it in a timely and efficient manner.

Rep. Ed Delaney is calling on the Governor’s office and the Indiana State Department of Health to release COVID-19 cases and deaths by nursing home facility.

“This is life and death,” said Delaney. "We can't hide this. This is going to destroy confidence to the nursing home industry.”

Delaney pointed out that nursing homes are dependent on Medicaid and Medicare, which are paid for with your tax dollars.

"I'm calling for open information as to which nursing homes are having what problems,” said Delaney. “It's important to the staff, to the public, to the people choosing nursing homes, to legislative funding of this industry."

Delaney said prospective residents and their families should be able to go to a website to view how many cases have happened at a facility, rather than relying on a staff member to tell them that information in person or over the phone.

“Our families have to decide whether to put their loved ones in a facility or not,” said Delaney. “I understand it’s uncomfortable for the nursing home industry to have to reveal this information, but we’re investing our family, our lives, our future. Employees are investing their lives.”

Delaney said the information could also be valuable to people who work inside long term care facilities.

“So that’s the choice we have to make,” said Delaney. “It’s a difficult choice, but to me it’s an obvious choice.”

What You Can Do

If your family's nursing home is not providing the information at your request, you can report it to familyoutreach@isdh.in.gov.

Call 6 Investigates is also tracking nursing home cases in Indiana, and we want to continue to add to that list.

Has your nursing home reported deaths or COVID-19 cases to you? Email kara.kenney@wrtv.com to share that information with our team.

You can see the full list of nursing home COVID-19 data compiled by the RTV6 team in the document below.