Local News

25 people awaiting coronavirus test results at Raleigh rehab center

Posted April 13, 2020 7:35 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2020 9:04 a.m. EDT

— Coronavirus cases have now been reported at two Raleigh facilities.

At Sunnybrook Rehabilitation Center in Raleigh, three residents tested positive. One is hospitalized at WakeMed and the other two are in isolation. Two employees are also sick. Twenty-five other people who were showing symptoms at Sunnybrook are also being tested.

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through nursing homes across the state.

Two residents have died at Louisburg Nursing Center where there are 47 cases of coronavirus.

In Durham, we learned of three outbreaks at three separate long-term care facilities: Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Treyburn Rehabilitation Center and Durham VA Health Care.

“There are a total of 25 patients there of which four have tested positive, said Paul Crews, the executive director of the Durham VA Health Care System. "One is away in the hospital getting extra treatment that’s not normally available in the nursing home setting. We’ve had four employees who have tested positive and they are all recovering and doing well right now.”

Crews doesn’t want to take any chances. “We have moved them to single occupancy rooms. We have restricted their movements and taking steps all the way down to disposable utensils just to make sure that we keep them safe," he said.

Keeping residents, employees and family members safe is the goal for many during this trying time, and it's why Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order outlining the importance of increasing communication among the staff, universal masks for all staff members, and regular temperature checks are a few highlights aimed at mitigating the spread inside long-term care facilities.

Meanwhile, complaints continue to pile up from employees at The Laurels of Chatham County after mass testing on Friday resulted in 57 positive COVID-19 infections.

A staff member shared a photo that they say shows a supply bag with no gowns, gloves, masks or hand sanitizer.

"Stuff is running out," said the health care worker, who asked WRAL not to use their name for fearing of losing their job. "They have hand sanitizer. It's not for the CNAs. It's for the nurses only ... We are working under poor, poor conditions."

WRAL has spoken to multiple employees who say there is an ongoing staffing shortage that's been made worse by employees who have tested positive and cannot report to work.

Some employees claim they were asked to work by a nursing supervisor despite testing positive for Coronavirus.

A CNA says there is also a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is why they have been using and reusing residents' gowns as protective gear.

"We are the ones doing the washing, the changing, the lifting [and] the transferring," the CNA said. "We are the ones doing it, yet we are the least they care about.”

On Monday, more than a dozen calls and five emails to top leaders at Laurel Health went unanswered.

The Ohio-based company operates 50 nursing homes, according to their website, including seven in North Caorlina.

Mohammad Qazi, president and CEO of The Ciena Group - Laurel Health Care Company did not respond to calls for comment.

Barbara Lombardi, senior vice president; Catherine Chiovaro, vice president; Brent Tippie, vice president; and, Ryan Zimmerman, a spokesperson, did not respond to requests for comment.

Qazi appears in a video posted March 26 on the company's website thanking employees for working through the pandemic.

"Your health and well-being and your families health and well-being is most important to me personally and to the entire Ciena team," said Qazi.

In an email Tuesday morning, Zimmerman said The Laurels is following "directives" from the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association, the American Health Care Association and the CDC regarding PPE and staffing shortages and preventative strategies. 

"PPE is unfortunately a problem for almost all long-term care facilities, and is not unique to The Laurels ... At this time, however, we do have an adequate supply of PPE," said Zimmerman.

Meanwhile, family members with loved ones at the facility are expressing concern about a staffing shortage.

"How can [health care workers] safely take care of themselves and adequately care for their patients now that they are fighting this terrible disease and really understaffed?" asked Amanda Robertson.

Robertson's mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's, has lived at The Laurels for about three years. The 81-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday and getting updates on her fever and cough have been hard to come by.

“When I called over there today, the woman was rather short with me. She was like, 'Everyone is doing fine.' It was kind of short. No more details," said Robertson.

Robertson says she doesn't blame The Laurels for the outbreak. In fact, she is calling on the state and federal government to help alleviate the pressure on all long-term care facilities dealing with Coronavirus cases.

"I would really like to ask the governor to provide additional healthcare staff to support these folks in our state who are tasked with caring for our loved ones.”

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