Henrico nursing home cited for COVID-19 violations turns to new technology to fight the virus

Taking Action

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Henrico nursing home cited for keeping COVID-19 positive residents in the same room with COVID-19 negative residents may now be a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.

8News exposed that Westport Rehabilitation & Nursing Center was cited for housing those residents together during an unannounced inspection in late May. Yet, patients like Courtney Nelson feel they have been well cared for. She contracted COVID-19 in May.

“I was tested three times,” says Nelson.

Nelson told 8News she was never worried but the isolation from the outside during the pandemic has been tough.   

“No, not scared. The only thing is that we can’t leave our room, that’s hard. No one is allowed in the building ever, so you can’t bring something from outside to us,” she said.

The Westport resident never had any symptoms but by late May the facility had an outbreak, nine people died and an inspection warned of an immediate jeopardy. 8News asked the lead clinician, Jenni Johnson, why the facility was still putting residents who were COVID-19 positive in the same room with residents who were negative for the virus.  

“Once a patient is in the room with someone that tested positive, we are going to presume that they are also positive because they have been exposed to the virus,” she told 8News. “So, until we have all of the test results back it is not beneficial to move those patients around and risk spreading the virus until we have all of the facts together.”

Johnson said Westport was always working closely with local and state health officials.

“It has been so challenging. These residents and these staff, they’re my family,” said Johnson.

Yet, the staff worked fast to get the virus under control. And now in late July, the Henrico nursing home maybe a leader in the fight against the virus. “Currently we are COVID-free,” Johnson told 8News.

Westport, part of Innovative Healthcare Management, turned to Shalom Reinman, the founder and CEO of Megadata to help identify potential COVID cases. “Oxygen was really good indicator,” says Reinman.

When the pandemic hit, Megadata, which analyzes data for mainly nursing homes, started tracking their resident’s vitals. They monitored temperatures, symptoms, nurse’s notes and oxygen levels.

“We found that oxygen numbers could be an early indicator even earlier than temperatures and other symptoms,” Reinman said. He says the slightest change in patient’s baseline oxygen level proved to be a potential sign of the coronavirus.

“It gave the ability to really understand even before a COVID test who’s looking like they might have COVID,” Reinman explained.

It was a game changer for Westport. “Huge difference,” Johnson said. She told 8News now residents immediately go into isolation as soon as they are suspected of having the virus. Nelson feels she’s in good hands at Westport.

“They do the best they can. If it wasn’t good, I certainly wouldn’t sit here and put up with it,” she said.

Westport told 8News they have asked for a review of that inspection. They also said all residents and staff are tested for COVID-19 weekly. Megadata, which works with about 350 nursing across the country, is working on a study to share their findings.

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