PITTSFIELD — Four National Guard members and 13 other state health workers arrived Thursday at a city nursing home where reports of neglect have accelerated in recent weeks amid a coronavirus outbreak.
A state Department of Public Health inspector also arrived unannounced Thursday morning at the Springside Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center, in response to reports of new cases of COVID-19, the agency said.
Additionally, the DPH Rapid Response Team returned on Thursday, two days after spending several days at the facility to help with nursing and infection control.
Springside owner Kevin Morris, president of BaneCare, pointed out that inspectors had arrived for an infection control inspection, not an inspection based on complaints stemming from reports of negligence, “which we wholeheartedly deny.” .
And he noted that the Rapid Response Team is required to report cases of abuse or neglect, which it did not, he said.
“The Rapid Response Team has been a boon to helping the facility care for our patients and residents while our employees recover from COVID,” Morris said. “They tell us they have no problem.”
The team also reported no serious infection control issues, but “isolated cases” of staff not wearing protective gear properly, according to the agency.
Local authorities and lawmakers say they are turning their attention to the Lebanon Road facility following reports of neglect, including an incident last week in which a woman worried about her mother’s safety called the police to help him out.
Mayor Linda Tyer said she was working with the DPH and had spoken directly with Secretary of State for Health and Human Services Mary Lou Sudders.
“I want families to know that we are well aware of their concerns and that we are actively engaging on their behalf and sounding the alarm,” Tyer said, noting that she felt the urgency from Sudders and the HPD.
State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, said, “At this point, I have more questions than answers, but we need to demand answers.”
“I am alarmed, along with my constituents, by the reported conditions at Springside Nursing Home, and will work closely with the Department of Public Health to ensure they are addressed,” she said. added.
Problems at the facility began to escalate late last month when the number of COVID-19 cases spiked among residents and staff. Springside has reported at least 42 resident cases and 18 staff cases since Jan. 25, according to information on the facility’s website.
Workers familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an already stretched nursing staff had been reduced to disastrous numbers due to quarantines, with ratios, at times, of one assistant for 53 residents.
Since reporting last week on the case of the police being called to extricate the woman’s mother, The Eagle has received numerous reports from people whose loved ones remained at the facility and from police officers. health familiar with the situation.
They allege negligence that includes ringing bells going unanswered for hours and staff members berating those who continue to press them. Other common allegations include sudden weight loss, medication arriving late or never arriving, double diapers and, in the most extreme circumstances, people lying in their trash for up to 10 a.m.
Many say the phones of administrators and receptionists generally go unanswered, and patients, residents and their families are often greeted with disdain and sometimes hostility when concerns are brought to the attention of administrators and most caregivers.
A man, calling the situation a “local humanitarian crisis”, rushed to Pittsfield from another state to remove his father about an hour after police were there last week to help the woman transfer her mother.
Understaffing at Springside, which has 135 beds, and at most nursing homes, is nothing new, although the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the problem by creating a new layer of staffing shortages due quarantines. Nursing home operators say they are also having difficulty finding people to work.
An Eagle analysis of federal staffing data shows the facility, like most, has long had staffing levels below what federal regulators consider safe. Springside’s most recent staffing level reports to regulators show levels below state and national averages, and for RN care, significantly below what is considered safe and adequate.