Visitation at Venice nursing home ‘temporarily suspended’ due to COVID-19 outbreak, management says

Sarasota County

VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) – Nine months into the pandemic, eldercare facilities are still struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Sunset Lakes Health and Rehabilitation Center in Venice is currently dealing with an outbreak. The latest available data from the Florida Department of Health shows 55 residents and 33 staff members were positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday this week. Sunset Lakes is a 120-bed facility.

A Venice resident named Jill who lives nearby the nursing home walks past the facility almost every day saying prayers for everyone inside.

“They are at the mercy of their caregivers. They need help, they need proper equipment and education. It’s been a while, almost nine months, that we have been in this, so it is not new,” Jill said.

Sandra Cappello’s 81-year-old father spent a short time in the rehab center in May this year after suffering from a stroke.

“I had called around, check to see who was COVID-free at the time and what their policy was. I was assured that they had a policy for COVID and that any patient coming from the hospital was put in a separate wing for two weeks,” said Cappello.

Cappello says her father passed away after being found unresponsive in his room after she made multiple calls to see how he was doing. Hospital doctors told her he was in septic shock.

“I am a nurse and, in my opinion, they neglected him. The doctor wanted to monitor him is what I was told and they monitored him to his death,” said Cappello.

Though her father didn’t pass from COVID-19, Cappello feels for families with loved ones at the nursing home.

“That’s just terribly sad to think that there are that many people because they told me they had a policy for quarantining and keeping people isolated and separate and checking them so that it didn’t spread in the facility. That is a huge number, that is really sad,” said Cappello.

8 On Your Side contacted the nursing home’s management company for comment Thursday. Greystone Healthcare Management sent us this response:

“Daily reported cases of COVID-19 in Florida have been on a steady incline since late September, but even before the pandemic became apparent, Greystone Healthcare Management’s clinical team implemented enhanced infection control precautions at all of our communities. We knew we needed to take extraordinary steps to protect our residents and employees from this deadly virus because, although COVID-19 does not discriminate, the frail and elderly are most susceptible.

Currently, there are 45 residents and 12 staff members at Sunset Lake Health & Rehab in Venice, FL with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, and these individuals have been isolated from other residents and staff. Visitation, which the Governor began allowing on September 1, has been temporarily suspended for Sunset Lake.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began providing protocols and guidelines for COVID-19, our communities have diligently followed them. In many cases, Greystone Healthcare has gotten out in front of public health guidelines, adopting even more stringent infection precautions than were recommended at the time.

Our incredible staff are the frontline heroes working to keep our residents safe and cared for 24/7. We are grateful for their continued dedication to residents’ care during a time where physical presence with families is not possible. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, we follow Federal, State, and Local guidelines by screening and testing staff regularly for oxygen saturation levels, temperature, and providing them with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).

Everything we do is centered on improving our residents’ quality of life and providing comfort to the family members who cannot be with them during this time. We are extremely proud of our 6,300 caregivers across the country who are going above and beyond during this difficult time to care for those who depend on us.”

8 On Your Side asked about the difference in the management’s COVID-19 count compared to what was reported to the state. The number provided to us by Greystone Healthcare Management does not include the number of patients who have been transferred out of the facility. As for the difference in COVID-positive staff members, management told us “the difference in the staff number could be positive vs. suspected.”

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