Concerns abound as positive COVID-19 patients housed with other residents at Henrico nursing home

Taking Action

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Citizens have been told to quarantine or isolate if infected with the coronavirus. Yet, 8News has uncovered that three months into the pandemic, a Henrico nursing home had COVID-19 positive patients sharing the same room with COVID-19 negative patients.

“This failure resulted in immediate jeopardy.” That’s the finding from inspectors after they discovered the Westport Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Henrico was “cohorting COVID-19 positive and negative residents together.”

The finding was made during an unannounced COVID-19 Focused Survey of the facility between May 21 and May 28.

“It is just absolutely mind-boggling,” says Bill Sweeney, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at AARP.

He says it’s baffling that nursing homes would keep infected residents with uninfected residents so late in the coronavirus outbreak. According to the report, at the time of the inspection, 81 of the 130 residents had tested positive for COVID-19. Nine had died.

Inspectors found the “facility staff failed to implement standard and droplet precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” In addition, when a certified nursing assistant was asked if they were aware of residents in the same room, they didn’t hesitate to respond, saying “Yes, we do have positive and negative together.”

Sweeney says, “It is shocking to hear, I wish it was the first time I am hearing it.”

Westport declined 8News’ multiple requests for an interview but in a statement, Westport’s Administrator Paul Conradt-Eberlin, LNHA says in part:

Westport voluntarily began weekly facility wide testing of all residents and staff members on 5/27 which was exactly 30 days prior to VDH releasing their reopening guidance, mandating weekly testing beginning July 6th. Westport also contracted with professional traveling nurses to assist our staffing needs and continues to provide unlimited personal protective equipment to our staff and residents. As a result, Westport’s staffing levels have remained constant since we began preparing in January for this pandemic as we provide our residents and patients with the most exceptional level of care every day.

Beginning in March when we realized the severity of this virus, Westport restricted visitation to essential personnel only in order to minimize exposure. Westport implemented this on March 6th, a full week prior to CMS and CDC restricting visitation.

Throughout Skilled Nursing Facilities, there have been many opinions regarding cohorting. Westport has been receiving guidance from our Local Health Department regularly. We have been following all their recommendations and implementing infection control practices that were suggested. The Local Health Department advised us to “shelter in place”. Based on this recommendation, if there is an outbreak, we are to assume the exposed residents are positive and no residents are to be moved until we receive all pending test results. Moving the residents throughout the building poses a greater risk of spreading the virus throughout the facility.”

Statement from Paul Conradt-Eberlin, LNHA

8News began looking into Westport Rehabilitation after a viewer reached out.

The viewer said her family member had been tested twice at Westport for COVID-19 after another patient close by contracted the virus. Her relative tested negative both times. However, soon after that, the family member experienced faint breathing

They were rushed to the hospital where doctors found the patient arrived suffering from malnutrition and unable to fight off the virus. The family member is now considering legal action but they may have little recourse as Virginia, along with several other states, have passed immunity measures for nursing homes.

“We are absolutely opposed to this and I think it is outrageous,” Sweeney declared.

In the meantime, 8News has also uncovered discrepancies in reporting cases to state and federal agencies.

While the COVID-19 survey noted nine deaths, data reported by Westport to the Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services only indicates six deaths.

Westport tells 8News: “Westport follows all appropriate reporting procedures with the Virginia Department of Health, related to COVID-19 cases and testing results. Any discrepancy in COVID reporting numbers is the result of alternative reporting agencies.”

8News reached out to the Richmond/Henrico Health District and were told circumstances occur where they hold off on transferring patients. Yet, 8News was told the health department would never recommend keeping positive and negative patients together without some sort of clear timeline for ending that. Both the health department and Westport confirm the facility is now COVID-free.

In a statement, Westport’s Medical Director Doctor Stanley N. Furman writes in part:

Issues occur in any facility and they are addressed with utmost concern and correction if and when needed.

COVID-19 has been and will continue to be a challenge. We have strictly followed the guidelines of the local health department/have adequate supplies of PPE/closed down our communal dining earlier than all other facilities/screened our employees for symptoms/had weekly meetings with Medical Directors of all local facilities led by VCU professor to establish/maintain best practices/have tested all staff and patients and are currently COVID free.

Statement from Stanley N. Furman, M.D., Board of Certified Geriatrics

Click here for additional resources for families with loved ones in long term care facilities.

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