“I can assure you that we work all the time to keep patients and residents as healthy and safe as possible,” Feifer said. “We do everything in our power – and all medical experts know at the moment – to protect our patients, residents and employees.”
Feifer said Medford’s home treated “elderly people who are very weak, elderly with various health conditions that are more vulnerable to the common cold, not to mention deadly and highly contagious viruses like this.”
The average age of residents who die is more than 85 years. Many residents suffering from dementia, he said, “make preventive and restrictive measures difficult to enforce.”
Over the past month, eight other residents have died, Feifer said. Four tested negative for the virus, with one delayed, and three refused the test.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been damaged by coronavirus. Across the state, long-term care facilities account for nearly 60 percent of deaths related to coronavirus. There are at least 71 virus-related deaths at the Holyoke Warrior House, at least 46 in a nursing home in Lawrence, and 49 at a facility in Belmont.
Among the 30 states that openly report deaths in long-term care, Massachusetts has the second highest rate in the country, behind its neighbor Rhode Island, according to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Massachusestts health officials were notified of deaths due to the corona virus in long-term care facilities, but did not publicly provide total deaths at individual facilities. But some houses have done it themselves.
The Medford House admits it still hasn’t tested all staff for COVID-19, although the country’s public health officials began offering testing to all residents and staff in nursing homes at the end of March. Feifer said the company is currently working with the National Guard to schedule time to test staff. He said the testing of all residents had recently been completed and the majority of those who tested positive showed no symptoms.
In a statement, the state’s Department of Public Health said it had offered staffing support to the Courtyard several times, most recently on April 29 when officials at the house were strongly encouraged to accept the National Guard Clinic Support Team, according to Tom Lyons, a spokesman for the department.
“Facilities and company ownership (Genesis) declined the offer, believing that their staff were sufficient,” Lyons said.
Reyita Ramos, whose 94-year-old mother has lived in the Courtyard for four years and tested positive for the virus a week ago, said she was afraid of coverage of the outbreak.
“My heart is on these people and I just want them to get all the support they can get,” said Ramos, who appealed to social media a few weeks ago for people to donate personal protective equipment to their homes. “I feel that my mother and the population deserve it because we don’t come out of the forest, not with this virus.”
Ramos said the Courtyard administrator, Rory Blinn, held a Zoom meeting with relatives of residents three days a week and was open about what was happening at the facility and the steps they took to curb the virus.
He said the family was told that two staff members also died from the virus. The company refused to say whether that was true.
State Senator Patricia D. Jehlen, who represents Medford, described the facility as “among the most severely affected” of several nursing homes in her district that she has monitored since the pandemic began.
Jehlen said he had been in regular contact with Blinn in recent weeks and had spoken with relatives of four residents who were sick of COVID-19 but had not yet died. He said Blinn was “very aggressive in trying to reach the kind of help he needed.”
Blinn believes the corona virus has begun to spread at home after an infected resident is discharged from the hospital and returned to live there, Jehlen said. He stressed that the outbreak did not reflect the quality of care of the facility.
“Once inside, it’s very difficult to stop,” Jehlen said.
Tim Foley, executive vice president of United Healthcare Workers East 1199SEIU, a union representing 160 employees at Medford’s home, said caregivers had “worked tirelessly with management to protect seniors and people with disabilities and themselves when they ignored fear. each person. days to provide care to our most vulnerable countries. “
Feifer said the Courtyard had diligently followed the coronavirus guidelines and protocols and even adopted infection prevention measures that were more stringent than those initially required. Staff have been wearing full protective gear since March 26, he said.
But the son of a resident expressed concern that the staff did not have the supplies needed to keep the place and the occupants clean.
“They don’t keep clean. They don’t even have a cloth to clean patients,” he said. He asked not to be identified to protect his mother’s privacy.
The speed of the outbreak was shocking, he said. In one week, 34 people died.
“It was very fast, and I was very surprised,” he said.
Brian MacQuarrie from Globe staff contributed.
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