Families feel helpless as COVID-19 spreads in nursing homes, facilities say testing will be costly

Families feel helpless as COVID-19 spreads in nursing homes, facilities say testing will be costly

MATTHEWS, N.C. — For months, Barbie Smith watched helplessly as coronavirus spread through nursing homes and she worried about her dad, Earl.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “And there’s nothing I can do about it,”

This week, those fears came to true, her dad tested positive at Royal Park in Matthews. They got the results on Sunday.

Content Continues Below

Smith said her father’s roommate had the virus and she said staff never moved her dad.

She thinks they should have been testing residents sooner.

“He’s upset. He knows what’s going on. He had a feeling it was going to come back positive,” she said.

Royal Park told Channel 9 that 43 residents and 11 staff members have the virus and said its screening employees and taking every safety precaution.

“It’s very disturbing,” Smith said.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

This comes as state data shows outbreaks at long-term care facilities continue to grow.

Sharon Towers in South Park is one of the newest facilities with an outbreak.

To prevent outbreaks, long-term care facilities will have to continuously test staff and residents

And that will be costly.

According to the American Health Care Association, it would cost $19.9 million to test all staff members, nursing home and assisted living residents in the state of North Carolina, just once.

Much of that will be paid through Medicare and Medicaid.

>> We’ll bring you LIVE updates on Channel 9 Eyewitness News. Get extended coverage on the free WSOC Now app on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.

One assisted living company Channel 9 spoke to said they need help and support from local health departments and the state. They also need access to testing often to prevent the spread.

Smith said all she can do now is pray her dad who is a grandpa and great grandpa recovers.

“I just pray for everyone in the nursing homes because it’s really serious. I hope people take this serious,” Smith said.

Royal Park sent Channel 9 the following statement:

Following the testing of all of our residents and staff for COVID-19, Royal Park of Matthews Rehabilitation & Health Center shared on May 26th that forty-four residents and eleven staff members had been diagnosed. Following the guidance of the Mecklenburg County Health Department, on Monday May 25th we re-tested all of our residents that had previously tested negative. Royal Park received conformation earlier today that three additional residents and two employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The families of these residents and the Mecklenburg County Health Department have been notified. Royal Park received the first confirmations of COVID-19 diagnoses on May 14th and 16th of two staff members and May 17th of a resident. The Mecklenburg County Health Department was immediately notified following each of these confirmed diagnoses. Following the direction of the Mecklenburg County Health Department, we began testing of all of our residents and staff members on May 18th.

We certainly understand the concerns that our resident’s family members and loved ones may have. Privacy laws, however, do not allow us to publicly share patient-specific information or respond to specific inquiries. We do encourage family members to contact Royal Park and ask questions and discuss the care of their loved ones.

We are doing everything we can to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in our community including closely monitoring all residents and screening all employees every time they enter the building. All staff are working under universal personal protective equipment precautions, wearing masks, gowns, gloves and goggles. Residents with COVID-19 diagnoses or suspected of having an infectious condition are separated and treated on different halls of the facility. We are staying in close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking all appropriate steps.

In addition, Royal Park continues to follow the infection prevention and control guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Health Division of the Mecklenburg County Health Department regarding the cleaning and disinfecting of our community in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our practices include thorough daily (and more often as needed) cleaning of all resident rooms and a special focus on high-touch surfaces throughout the facility. All cleaning products are EPA-approved for use against the Coronavirus and applied in approved concentrations and for recommended contact times. We also do not conduct communal dining and activities.

We continue to not permit visitors per the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the local health department. We are encouraging family members to call us for updates on the status of their loved ones, but it is crucial that we continue to restrict visitation to reduce the spread of this virus.

We will contact families if their loved one is suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19. We want you to know that we are taking every precaution to prevent the spread of infection.

Majority of new COVID-19 cases in Rowan Co. are at Citadel nursing home, officials say