Dozens of deaths reported at Central Alabama nursing homes

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BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — Dozens of COVID-19 deaths have been reported at nursing homes in central Alabama, according to data released by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The numbers can be obtained by accessing the CMS database and reflect reported deaths and infections through June 25.

“We report to three government agencies, local, state and federal, and we report to residents, families and employees, so three audiences there, nobody else out there, healthcare provider, business or otherwise, reports COVID-19 cases to as many places or people as nursing homes do and we are very proud of that transparency,” said John Matson, with the Alabama Nursing Home Association.

Many have called for the release of statistics so that neighbors might learn if they have been exposed by a caregiver who may travel to and from a rehab center.

“Maybe this data could have been shared earlier that maybe folks out in the community might have taken it a little more seriously,” said Amanda Williams, who lost her mother Rose Harrison to the virus.

Harrison worked as a caregiver at Marion Regional Nursing Home in Hamilton. The facility reported seven deaths, according to the CMS database.

“It’s the caregivers that go into these nursing homes to care for these residents. They go out into the communities, that is why it is important for the public to know this data,” said Williams.

Williams believes that other businesses, like factories or busy retailers, should also be required to report locations where an employee may have exposed others. So far, only nursing homes have been required to share that information.

“We are already reporting to two government entities and then the federal government comes along and says oh you need to report to this third government entity as well, which any time you are reporting these cases, that’s paperwork and you’re not able to provide care while you’re having to sit there on the computer or on the telephone or whatever you’re having to do,” Matson said.

Matson said the ANHA believes some of the data is incorrect.

“We’ve had members of ours call us and say this is wrong, or that is wrong in my information and we expect that to be corrected over time. CMS said it is going to continue to scrub that data,” said Matson.

Facilities continue to restrict visitors, screen and test patients, along with requiring personal protective equipment for staff members. Matson hopes the data will allow for more resources to be shared with nursing homes.

“We knew this was going to be serious from the beginning and we have taken it that way, I hope now that people see these numbers reported through the CDC and CMS that they’ll understand just how serious this is for nursing homes and the need to direct resources toward nursing homes so they can better meet this challenge,” said Matson.

Matson praised nursing home employees for the continued hard work, despite the risks of infection.

“They keep showing up day after day knowing it is a dangerous situation or doing dangerous work, but they have the right attitude, they have the right heart with the compassion to provide care to people who are very elderly, very frail, and have multiple medical conditions,” said Matson.

For people who have lost a loved one, like Williams, education and transparency remain paramount. Williams is glad neighbors can finally see the case numbers for themselves.

“This virus is still very real and it is out there, even myself working as a nurse, I am seeing the surge first hand,” said Williams.

Here is a look at some of the death totals reported in facilities around Birmingham, according to CMS data.

26 – Diversicare of Bessemer
16 – South Haven Health and Rehab LLC in Hoover
12 – Diversicare of Riverchase in Hoover
11 – Baron House of Hueytown
7 – Marion Regional Nursing Home in Hamilton
4 – North Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation in Birmingham
4 – Cherokee County Health and Rehab Center in Centre
3 – Shelby Ridge Nursing Home in Alabaster
3 – Forest Manor Health and Rehab in Northport
1 – Fair Haven in Birmingham
1 – Hunter Creek in Northport

To access the database, click here.

A spokesperson for Diversicare of Bessemer shared the following statement with CBS 42:

In follow up to the recent report by CMS around long term care facilities with active COVID-19 outbreaks, we would like to provide an update on the current status of our residents and team members at Diversicare of Bessemer. Many providers, including Diversicare, have identified discrepancies in the data. We are currently caring for zero COVID-19 positive residents at our center.
Our center implemented precautionary and preparedness measures early – all in accordance with CMS and CDC guidelines – including strict limitations on visitations. We are doing everything we can to ensure we stop the spread of this within our center and our community. Our infection control procedures are in compliance with the CDC guidance. Our nursing staff is educated and understands the healthcare protocols for the COVID-19 quarantine and emergency situations.
The safety of our residents and team members continues to be our top priority.  For updates on COVID-19, please visit www.diversicareofbessemer.com.

Diversicare of Bessemer

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