A disturbing report details disturbing information about coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes in Polk County. While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state health officials declined to release the names of nursing homes with COVID-19 patients, The Ledger obtained a document from Florida Medical Examiners Commission revealing information on 59 confirmed deaths attributed to nursing home residents throughout the state.
As of April 17, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,515 confirmed coronavirus cases for both residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the state. A total of 141 people died in those facilities.
In March, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued guidance for nursing homes to protect their residents from coronavirus.
Lack of Communication from Highlands Lake
According to the report, the two COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents in Polk County occurred at Highlands Lake Center. One was a 91-year-old male who was rushed to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center on April 12 in respiratory distress and died on April 13. The other victim, a 90-year-old male, also died on April 13 after being transported to the hospital.
Tara Zimmerman, assistant general counsel for Highlands Lake Center’s parent company, assured The Ledger that only six residents of the facility had tested positive for coronavirus and were isolated from the others. However, staff members of the nursing home and relatives of residents are concerned that more patients might have COVID-19 but are either not showing any symptoms or showing only some coronavirus symptoms.
The daughter of an 85-year-old female resident told the publication that her mother was diagnosed with pneumonia, but the facility refused to test her for coronavirus because she did not have a fever. However, the facility eventually agreed to test her mother when she insisted on administering the COVID-19 test.
The woman and other relatives of several nursing home residents of the facility who spoke to The Ledger complained about the lack of communication from the staff at Highlands Lake. The woman received a phone call from Highlands Lake after the facility confirmed the COVID-19 diagnosis in one of its residents.
However, she was not even told that her mother had pneumonia, something that she found out from her aunt. When she called the facility, a nurse confirmed the information. Several days later, she received a phone call from the facility saying that her mother had tested positive for coronavirus.
The woman said that it was “breaking her heart” because she could not even see her mother. Staff at the facility have now been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting them from discussing residents’ COVID-19 cases with anyone other than their family members.
If your family member has been a victim of nursing home neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact our lawyers.
Positive Coronavirus Cases at Life Care Center but ‘We Are Not Testing’
In another Polk County nursing home – Life Care Center in Winter Haven – a person connected with the facility admitted that they might have positive cases, “but we are not testing” for COVID-19. The woman did not want to be identified for fear of retribution.
The facility is owned by the same company as the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, which was linked to at least 37 coronavirus deaths. The anonymous person also revealed that Life Care Center in Winter Haven has “multiple staff members who work in multiple facilities,” increasing the risk of “cross-contamination” from hospitals to nursing homes. This could be a potential case of nursing home neglect on the part of the Life Care Center.
On April 20, 35 residents at Opis Highlands Lake Center, a Lakeland nursing home, were hospitalized for COVID-19.
Contact our Winter Haven nursing home neglect attorneys at The Turnbull Firm to discuss your situation. Call at 863-324-3500 for a case evaluation.