LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Nearly 30 residents at a Polk County nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19.
They, and six others, are being monitored and treated at Lakeland Regional Health.
8 On Your Side has been working to get answers for family members of residents at Opis Highlands Lake Center, who knew the number of cases far exceeded the amount being disclosed.
“I didn’t want to know who they were,” said Pam Fox, whose mother lived at Opis Highlands Lake Center. “That’s a privacy issue but after them telling me that there had been one case – they would not share any more information.”
Fox’s 85-year old mother, Goldie Cummings, died Monday morning after battling COVID-19 since early April.
After isolation and a trip to the hospital, Fox chose to bring her mother home.
“She passed away very peacefully in her sleep which is what I wanted. She was with me and not by herself,” she said.
Fox told 8 On Your Side the situation would have been easier if she had received more information from Opis Highlands Lake Center.
“All of this started in the area where my mother was at. None of us were told. She was in Carol Court and apparently it just snowballed there,” she said. “If you just make people aware from the beginning what’s going on, you can deal with that. It’s the unknown, you know, trying to figure out, well, why aren’t you telling me something? That ends up causing the issues.”
After several days of requesting information on the number of cases at the facility, Highlands Lake Center directed 8 On Your Side to its Facebook page Monday afternoon.
“After ongoing discussions with the leaders of the area hospitals, we felt it was in the best interests of our customers and team members to transfer them,” facility officials said in a post. “It is reassuring to know that these customers will receive the high level of care that our local hospitals can provide during this pandemic.”
Lakeland Regional Health announced Monday afternoon it was treating 35 patients from Highlands Lake Center.
“After ongoing communications with the leadership of Opis Highlands Lake Center throughout the last week, it became apparent to us and to their administrators that immediate hospital-level intervention was necessary for these residents,” said Elaine C. Thompson, PhD, FACHE, Lakeland Regional Health President and CEO. “This will allow Highlands Lake Center to focus on the safety and well-being of the other residents in their care and hopefully will slow the COVID-19 outbreak at this facility. These frail patients are now receiving high-level emergency care from our skilled providers.”
Opis Highlands Lake Center is not providing information on residents who have died.
In addition to Fox, 8 On Your Side has been in contact with another woman whose father, a resident there, died from COVID-19 on April 13.
As of the latest report, five residents or staff from long-term care facilities have died in Polk County.
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