ORLANDO, Fla. — Families of nursing home residents are raising concerns about COVID-19 isolation centers at these facilities.
What You Need To Know
- 23 nursing homes designated as Florida COVID-19 isolation centers
- 6 on state’s nursing home watch list; some have below average ratings from Medicare
- AHCA says they undergo “enhanced oversight”
This comes as Gov. DeSantis announced limited re-opening of long-term care facilities to visitors, months after closing them to minimize spreading coronavirus.
Coronavirus isolation centers are areas within a nursing home where a COVID-19 patient can recover.
Some families say they had no idea their loved ones’s nursing home had one of these centers, and they’re now calling on the state to end this practice.
Davonne Irion remembers the exact time she received a call from her father’s nursing home, letting her know he was on his way to the hospital. It was 12:45 a.m. on Father’s Day.
A hospital nurse later told her they tested her father for COVID-19.
“A few seconds went by and she said he’s tested positive and that was one of the hardest things I’ve had to digest. I could no longer talk,” said Irion.
Nine days later, Irion’s father died. Her husband was there with her, camera in hand, when she stood outside the hospice care facility to say “I love you.” It would be the last time she would see her father.
Irion eventually filed a complaint with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
Carrington Place of St. Petersburg, where Irion’s father lived, is one of 23 Florida nursing homes now designated as COVID-19 isolation centers.
We dug into the histories of all 23 facilities, and found six are currently on the state’s nursing home watch list. According to AHCA’s website: “The watch list identifies nursing homes that are operating under bankruptcy protection or the facility did not meet or correct upon follow-up…minimum standards at the time of an inspection.”
AHCA records also show some facilities haven’t been inspected in months.
Six facilities had “below average ratings” with Medicare, while Medicare described five as “too new to rate”.
“I’d love to see all these facilities become COVID exclusive. I don’t think mixing the facilities is a good idea,” said Irion.
While Irion doesn’t know exactly how her father contracted COVID-19, she does know he contracted it inside the nursing home, which is why she’s pushing for change.
Governor DeSantis however, says these isolation centers protect nursing home residents.
While these centers are actually part of the same nursing home facility, an AHCA spokesperson said, “residents with COVID-19 must be cared for in an area of a facility that is entirely separate from non-COVID-19 residents.”
“I don’t feel like that’s best practices for sure,” said Irion.
Nancy Niles, the Department Chair of Health Professions at Rollins College, shares her concern.
“You have staff that may be working at other facilities elsewhere, so there’s cross contamination there and also, there may be delays in testing when you test staff. They may be asymptomatic,” explained Niles.
The AHCA spokesperson also said all facilities were vetted before being approved, and said they undergo “enhanced oversight” and “daily communication” — but didn’t say exactly what that means.
For Irion, she just doesn’t want others to suffer her same pain of losing a loved one.
According to an AHCA spokesperson, the state reimburses each designated facility, including an additional payment per day medicaid recipients.
Spectrum News reached out Carrington Place in St. Petersburg, where Irion’s father stayed. A spokesperson issued a statement that said all residents and responsible parties were made aware of the designated COVID unit, but declined to detail the safety measures in place at that unit.