Coronavirus in Palmetto: Several residents, staff members test positive at nursing home

8 On Your Side

PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side has learned about a number of COVID-19 cases inside a nursing home in Palmetto, Florida.

We started to investigate after getting a tip from a concerned worker.

The Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Center is a nursing home licensed to have 120 beds.

8 On Your Side confirmed Monday that a number of residents and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Southern Healthcare Management’s Susan Kaar sent us a statement that reads, in part, “The safety of our residents and staff is paramount.”

Kaar says the nursing home is committed to doing everything to minimize the spread of this virus including following all CDC guidelines, protocols and personal protective equipment recommendations.

The facility is also testing all residents and staff for COVID-19.

Still, we don’t know how many people have tested positive inside this facility or any other nursing home in Florida. The Department of Health will not reveal that information, citing privacy laws.

“Families, we really don’t have a clue what’s happening at facilities right now,” said Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care.

Lee’s non-profit advocates for nursing home residents in Florida and beyond.

“We do know there’s a breakdown by county of where these occurrences are happening but nothing by individual facilities,” said Lee. “I think it’s a distortion of the HIPAA privacy laws to protect really the provider at the end of the day.”

8 On Your Side spoke with an employment attorney about rights in the workplace in light of this pandemic.

“Do we have a right to know if someone tests positive in our workplace?” Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“A right? No,” said attorney Terin Cremer.

Cremer says the CDC did issue new guidelines encouraging employers to reveal confirmed cases.

“If an employee is confirmed to have a COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace,” said Cremer.

Cremer says you would never reveal the name or the identity of the person who is sick.

8 On Your Side will continue to report on cases within nursing homes in Florida. You can email tips to MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

Here is the full statement from management for Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Center:

“Our center leadership and staff continue in their vigilance to keep our residents and staff safe taking significant measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The safety of our residents and staff is paramount. In collaboration with the local Department of Health the center implemented a proactive and preventative measure and initiated testing of all residents and staff for COVID-19. This approach allowed for earlier identification of those who may be positive, yet not showing any signs or symptoms, and assist with our ongoing effort to contain the virus. This approach enhances the ability to further protect the residents and staff so all necessary care and services can be authorized sooner.

The center has been advised that a number of residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Residents with positive tests will continue to be monitored at the center’s designated observation unit unless the physician orders them to be transferred to the local hospital for further care and services. We thank our local hospital systems for their service in providing excellent care and aid to our residents and our continued partnership.

We understand the interest in knowing the test results; however, the privacy rights of the residents and staff prohibit their disclosure. The facility has been informed that the Department of Health will be managing and providing updates regarding cases in the local community.

We continue to collaborate with, and appreciate the additional support of, the local Department of Health and their team. The facility staff continues to follow all CDC guidelines including adhering to all protocols for pre-screening residents prior to any re-admission, on-going monitoring of all residents, screening of staff, and maintaining compliance with infection control techniques and personal protective equipment recommendations.

We want to convey our deepest concern for those who have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19. Our thoughts are with them and their loved ones at this challenging time. This pandemic is unprecedented and our deepest condolences go out to everyone who have lost a loved one during this crisis. Through it, all the facility staff remains committed to doing everything we can to minimize the spread of this virus.”

LATEST ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:

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