nursing homes

‘Our Family is Devastated'; Family Members Concerned After DPH Report into Norwich Nursing Home

At least 21 residents and five staff members at Three Rivers Healthcare in Norwich have tested positive for COVID-19.

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The Connecticut Department of Public Health said Monday the investigation into a COVID-19 outbreak at a Norwich nursing home has found serious violations in infection control measures.

The department is issuing an "immediate jeopardy" statement of deficiency finding for Three Rivers Healthcare, where 21 residents and five staff members have contracted COVID-19.

"I just don't understand how they let this happen," said Amy Wetherby, whose grandmother lives at Three Rivers.

Wetherby's grandmother first started feeling ill in late July, according to Wetherby's family. However, she was not tested for COVID-19 until August when she was transported to the hospital. Wetherby said that her grandmother was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after arriving.

"Why not bring her to the hospital sooner? Why did they wait so long?" said Wetherby.

Her grandmother has since been released from the hospital and brought back to Three Rivers. Wetherby said that her family was told that the hospital could not do anything more for her. They have been informed that she struggles with breathing, but they have not been able to speak with her, according to Wetherby.

"Our family is devastated," said Wetherby.

"I don't want her to die alone if she dies," Amy's mother, Eva added.

According to the report released by DPH on Monday, an investigation found that the COVID-19 outbreak at Three Rivers was a result of serious infection control violations.

The statement of deficiencies paints a picture of a facility with staffing issues, a lack of personal protective equipment and an overall failure to follow general infection control practices.

DPH reports that the outbreak began in late July. At least 21 residents and 5 staff members have since tested positive.

According to DPH, a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on July 24 through routine weekly testing. The report explains that the staff member had been exposed to family members who tested positive for the virus, knew there was a possibility that she would test positive and still went to work.

The report outlines additional findings including:

  • Failure to properly cohort residents to prevent the transmission of COVID-19
  • Failure to use PPE in accordance with CDC guidelines
  • Failure to ensure designation of staff for COVID-19 positive residents
  • Failure to maintain an updated, accurate outbreak listing the COVID-19 status of residents
  • Failure to ensure visitor screening regarding a person's travel history
  • Failure to properly store reusable isolation gowns

According to the union representing some healthcare workers at Three Rivers, SEIU 1199, in order to stop these types of violations from happening again, DPH needs to address system issues within nursing homes. For example, the union explained that many of the issues in Three Rivers were fueled by critically low levels of staffing.

"We need systematic changes in this industry to deal with the problems that Norwich and other nursing homes are dealing with right now," said Jesse Martin, Vice President of SEIU 1199.

The facility will have 10 days to present a plan of action to address the findings and improve care.

“DPH is deeply saddened by the further loss of life in nursing homes related to COVID-19. We will continue our robust monitoring and enforcement activities in partnership with CMS to ensure that nursing homes are providing a safe environment for their residents” said Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford in a statement. “Our investigation uncovered system-wide failures in this nursing home in infection control practices, that merited the finding of immediate jeopardy. DPH is committed to holding facilities accountable and ensuring that improvements in patient care are made so residents’ lives are not put in danger.”

DPH is also investigating whether state regulations or laws have been violated.

Scott Ziskin, president and CEO of JACC Health Center of Norwich, which operates Three Rivers Health Care released a statement on Thursday:

“The health and safety of our residents and the staff members who care for them is our greatest priority at Three Rivers Healthcare—after the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, our infection control policies and procedures kept our residents and staff COVID-free for over four months. Since the occurrence of positive COVID-19 cases reported in our home, we have been working with the state Department Public Health (DPH) and its epidemiologists as we monitor the health of our residents and staff. This week, we submitted a comprehensive plan for corrective action to DPH, and we continue to work with DPH on a daily basis to implement the plan as the situation evolves. We offer our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the three residents who succumbed to the virus, and remain ever-vigilant in keeping everyone in the Three Rivers family safe.”

Meanwhile, Wetherby's family is taking it day by day, unsure of what will happen next.

"Hoping for good news," said Eva Wetherby. "Hoping that she will recover."

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