TAMPA, Fla — For months, families who have lost their loved ones due to COVID-19 have questioned how the virus was able to spread so quickly inside nursing homes.
Now, the federal government is asking questions too.
U.S. Representative James Clyburn (D-SC) launched an investigation into the coronavirus crisis in nursing homes, sending letters to the nation’s five largest for-profit nursing home companies asking for information about testing, personal protective equipment and efforts to prevent further infections.
According to the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, one of the 5 companies who received letters is Consulate Health Care -- which has had more than 60 deaths, five Consulate facilities are here in the 10 counties that make up the Tampa Bay Area. Those places account for 17 deaths.
According to the Florida Department of Health, those five Tampa Bay Consulate Health Care facilities are located in the following cities:
- Brandon: 9 deaths
- Safety Harbor: 0 deaths
- St. Petersburg: 0 deaths
- Lakeland: 7 deaths
- Sarasota: 1 death
Consulate Health Care sent 10 Investigates this statement:
"The coronavirus pandemic has caused severe impacts across the country and we grieve any loss of life suffered during these unprecedented times. Healthcare providers, including long-term care facilities, have been on the front lines of the fight to stem this crisis. At Consulate, we continue to work tirelessly to protect our residents and staff from the on-going threat of COVID-19. Although the crisis is not yet over, Consulate has been a proven leader in its response to this pandemic. According to CMS and the CDC, Consulate's COVID-19 cases as well as COVID-19 related deaths, are significantly lower (more than 50% lower) than the nursing home provider average. While we stand with the rest of the country that even one loss of life is one too many, we remain extremely appreciative of the vigilant efforts of our frontline nurses and caregivers for their commitment and dedication to protecting our patients during this global pandemic. We look forward to cooperating with the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and we welcome all constructive efforts by policymakers to improve the functioning of our healthcare system and promote positive outcomes for America's deserving seniors."
The four other companies which received letters were Genesis HealthCare, Life Care Centers of America, Ensign Group and SavaSeniorCare. None of which have facilities in our 10 Tampa Bay counties.
Attorney Al Ferrera has not announced which companies his client's loved ones were living in but says he’s been contacted by more than a dozen families who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19. He says it’s time for the people who run these long-term care facilities to start answering questions.
“What we’re seeing now is pretty bad. We have some buildings with a dozen cases, dozen deaths in those cases we want to know what happened. What did they do to protect residents and staff," Ferrera told 10 Investigates' Jennifer Titus.
One of the major things Ferrera says he wants to know is how these places handle the control of infectious diseases. 10 Investigates uncovered dozens of facilities in the Tampa Bay area in just the past two years which have been cited for infectious control practices.
We continue to see COVID-19 cases and deaths at area nursing homes.
According to the Florida Healthcare Association, which oversees 80 percent of the state’s nursing homes:
Most facilities in Florida have been investigated.
- They say only a few buildings remain and should be wrapping up the state-directed testing initiative this week.
- As far as Personal Protective Equipment, many of their centers have started getting their FEMA supplies, and the state says that is helping. They know there will be a continuous need for PPE, especially as we enter hurricane season.
- So, when could facilities be back open to visitors? The association hopes to have a recommendation soon. They are waiting until the testing is done.
- The last time nursing homes and ALF’s were open to visitors was March 14.
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