Florida coronavirus: Family alleges nursing home hit by COVID-19 hid father’s condition

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side continues to fight for your right to know what’s happening inside Florida’s nursing homes. A Tampa Bay area family says they were cut off from their loved one and kept completely in the dark about his condition. Now the 78-year-old man is dead and his family wants answers.

They spent a lifetime together. Kathryn and Ed Jungnitsch had been married for 58 years. They were far from done.

“He was weak and so he went to rehab to regain some strength,” Mrs. Jungnitsch said.

After entering rehab, Mr. Jungnitsch went downhill fast. His wife, and daughter Jennifer Jungnitsch, watched his decline through the glass.

“The one day that we were there looking in the window when he tried to get out of bed and fell in the corner, his face was bright red,” Mrs. Jungnitsch recalled.

April 11 was a bad day.

“We said at the time, I wonder if he has a fever? And we were told, oh no, he is fine,” said Mrs. Jungnitsch.

It would be the last time that Jennifer would see her father.

“They rushed in and they immediately put down the shades,” she said.

Approximately 72 hours later, Mr. Jungnitsch died.

He wouldn’t be the only one at the facility.

Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Center became one of the Tampa Bay area’s most dangerous nursing homes during this pandemic with a high number of cases and fatalities.

“Did they call and tell you that he had tested positive for COVID-19?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“No,” said Jennifer, “we just kind of want some answers as to what happened while he was there.”

“The rehab facility would not talk to us,” Mrs. Jungnitsch added.

8 On Your Side has been fighting for the right of families to know what’s happening inside nursing homes.

We called Southern Healthcare Management, LLC. They’re in charge of Riviera Palms and two other nursing homes that are also the site of deadly outbreaks in the Bay area.

Susan Kaar, with Southern Healthcare Management, sent 8 On Your Side a statement that reads in part:

“…the Director of Nursing and Administrator are reaching out and I’m hopeful the center will be able to address all their concerns and answer any remaining questions the family may have. I do pray the family will be able to find peace and some comfort during this very difficult time.”

The Jungnitsch family has been haunted by what happened during their father’s final days.

They tell 8 On Your Side the facility did call to go over the timeline on Friday; however, they’re not satisfied.

In the meantime, the three facilities overseen by Southern Healthcare Management have lost 29 people so far, according to the Florida Department of Health.

8 On Your Side will continue to follow the latest developments from Riviera Palms, Braden River and Sarasota Point.

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