Florida coronavirus: Errors, incomplete info found in state’s list of impacted nursing homes

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – If you have family or friends in a local nursing home, you want to know that they are safe from the coronavirus. But 8 On Your Side has found that Florida’s master list of elder-care facilities and nursing homes with cases of COVID-19 is not only incomplete – in some cases, it’s just plain wrong.

Since Monday, the Florida Department of Health’s website has reported two coronavirus cases at facilities in Hernando County.

So a Hernando County facility should be on the master list released by the state. However, it is not.

8 On Your Side has been pressing state health officials to include critically important information on this list like the number of cases at each facility, the breakdown of resident vs. staff member infections and the number of deaths.

“We gotta fix the list,” said Luke Neumann.

Neumann is the Vice President of Service and Relationship Development at Palm Garden, a healthcare organization that operates 14 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers across the state. He points out another problem with the list.

He says three facilities on the list are currently 100% COVID-19 free. According to Neumann, there are currently no coronavirus cases at Palm Garden of Clearwater, Palm Garden of Largo and Palm Garden of Winter Haven. Palm Garden released a HIPAA-compliant statement about its facilities that you can read in full below.

Neumann doesn’t think having one case at one time should land you on a list alongside facilities battling an outbreak.

“When you release a COVID list of nursing homes that is inaccurate, it just drives up anxiety among those who love the people we serve and protect,” he said.

The man who oversees this master list is the head of the Florida Department of Health, Dr. Scott Rivkees.

8 On Your Side has heard from viewers that are using this list to make life and death decisions about loved ones. After calls and emails, we’re looking for answers from the top.

On Wednesday, we put in a request to speak with Dr. Rivkees about the issues surrounding the list and the nursing homes’ response.

In the meantime, if you have concerns about your loved one in a long-term care facility, email MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

Palm Garden’s full HIPAA-compliant statement about the three facilities:

“Palm Garden of Clearwater does not have a positive case.

On 4/5/20, A resident was admitted to Palm Garden of Clearwater from the hospital. We created step-down units early on to isolate new residents for observation of COVID-19 symptoms and COVID-19 testing. We tested the resident for COVID on 4/6/20. We received the test back on 4/8/20 and the result was positive. The resident was immediately moved to our COVID Isolation Unit. We retested on 04/14/20 and the result was negative for COVID-19. We tested again 48 hours later, on 4/16/20. Again, the result was negative for COVID-19. On 4/17/20 the resident was moved back to our step-down unit for observation for another 14 days. Our resident still shows no symptoms and is COVID free.

To date, we have tested 58 residents with no positive results. We continue to test every new resident upon admission, retest within 7 days after admission, after medically essential outside appointments, and with qualifying symptoms.

Palm Garden of Largo does not have a positive COVID-19 case.

On 03/28/20 a resident was admitted to our step-down unit and tested for COVID-19. On 04/02 the COVID test result was returned negative. On 04/04/20 the resident was transferred to the hospital and was re-tested for COVID, with a positive result. More than 14 days have passed since his hospitalization. We have not had a positive COVID-19 test result at Palm Garden of Largo since.

To date, we have tested over 70 of our current Residents with no positive results. We continue to test all residents upon admission and then test them again within 7 days, and we test after every medically essential outside appointments, and we test any time we see symptoms.

Palm Garden of Winter Haven does not have a positive COVID-19 case.

Palm Garden of Winter Haven was wrongly included in the list that the governor released. Two residents tested positive without any signs or symptoms. Both were isolated immediately. Both were observed for 14 days and were asymptomatic. Both were tested and the result came back negative. Both residents were then retested 48 hours later. All tests were negative. Dates for their second negative test results were reported on 4/15 and 4/16 to DOH. Palm Garden of Winter Haven is COVID free.”

8 On Your Side will continue to follow this story.

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