By Mary Claire Molloy – Special to The Bloomingtonian
It took Elaine Guinn six days and multiple phone calls to learn that her 70-year-old father is presumed positive for coronavirus and living inside an outbreak at a Bloomington nursing home.
Guinn started asking questions May 23, when her father, Elmer, who has dementia, COPD and kidney disease, was moved to a new room at Golden LivingCenters without explanation. She eventually learned he’d been tested for COVID-19 three days earlier after his roommate tested positive.
Golden LivingCenters had 25 confirmed positive cases as of Friday afternoon, a spokesperson acknowledged to the Bloomingtonian Friday.
The facility’s internal coronavirus case database, shown to the Bloomingtonian by Guinn, shows 49 positive or presumed positive cases of COVID-19 as of Friday – 41% of the 119 residents. Nine employees also tested positive or were presumed positive, according to the database.
“There have been deaths, but we’re not reporting on them publicly at this time,” Golden LivingCenters spokesperson Kelli Luneborg-Stern said. “All the family members or representatives have been notified.”
Guinn insists she is her father’s designated representative, but didn’t know there were any cases until she started asking questions, and she still doesn’t know how many people have died.
The same database indicates an even more devastating outbreak at the company’s Brookview facility in Indianapolis, where 45 of the 79 residents were positive or presumed positive – 58 percent.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires nursing homes to disclose coronavirus cases and deaths to residents and their designated representatives, and to the CDC. When any case is confirmed, families are to be notified by 5 p.m. the next day, according to the guidelines. Nursing homes also must report cumulative totals to patients and families at least weekly and after every new case.
“We continue to work in a fluid situation,” she said in a statement, “therefore our summary reflects the number of COVID-positive residents who are currently in our care each day… With many residents recovering or asymptomatic, some discharging to the hospital and others sadly, passing away, we are doing our best to address multiple reporting requirements to reflect the daily status of our LivingCenters while keeping quality care and safety as our top priority.”
Guinn said the last communication she received from the facility was a letter in early April explaining that visitors were no longer allowed.
“I haven’t gotten any daily updates, I haven’t gotten emails, I haven’t gotten anything,” Guinn said.
When Guinn was finally able to set up a Zoom call with her father yesterday, he told her that “they took away” his roommate because he had “the corona.”
Guinn became upset Friday when a database maintained by WTHR suddenly showed 48 cases at Golden LivingCenters. A few days earlier, she said, it had shown none. After she sounded the alarm on Facebook, the nursing facility director gave her access to the nursing home’s database. The facility has since changed the password.
Transparency from nursing homes, which are at high risk for outbreaks, has become a national issue during the coronavirus pandemic, with many families left in the dark about the number of cases in their loved ones’ facilities.
The AARP and two Indiana lawmakers have called for the state to release data about cases and deaths at individual nursing homes. The CDC is expected to begin making that information accessible to the public in the near future. For now, people like Guinn have to rely on the facility individually notifying them.
“I will absolutely move him out after this pandemic ends – if he survives it,” Guinn said. “I don’t want to lose my dad.”
As of May 25, Indiana has reported 4,086 positive COVID-19 cases in 224 facilities. The state has also accounted for 876 deaths in 142 facilities, or 47% of the state’s total number of COVID-19 deaths, according to data compiled by the IndyStar.