Health department working with nursing homes ahead of COVID-19 surge

Health department working with nursing homes ahead of COVID-19 surge

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department in conjunction with the area's COVID-19 task force held a web conference Friday with nursing home administrators trying to brace them and their facilities for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases in coming weeks.

They also discussed what can be expected in high-risk populations. Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said older people who are ill might not present initially with the most common symptom of fever.

“They may have other symptoms like GI problems, or confusion. Change in mental status would be a good indicator,” she said.

The health department advised administrators of those facilities that all workers must wear masks at all times and be ready to separate residents quickly based on illness developing.

The health department is still monitoring an outbreak of COVID-19 at Carriage Court of Memphis on Massey Road, an assisted living facility, where five residents and one employee have confirmed positive cases of the virus.

"I can publicly say that we tried throughout the day to encourage them to be transparent and release information. They were made aware that we would ultimately release that information," Haushalter said Wednesday.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to the facility Wednesday for a statement regarding information the Shelby County Health Department disclosed at their daily news conference, but we did not receive a response. A prior statement the facility released Tuesday did not confirm the existence of COVID-19 cases.

WMC Action News 5 received correspondence from the facility Friday morning:

“I am writing to you as the Executive Director of Carriage Court of Memphis to respectfully request a correction of factually inaccurate statements with respect to your recent article about Carriage Court of Memphis,” wrote Lisa Bobal, Executive Director, “Your article state that ‘the health department said the facility ultimately chose not to comply with their request, and that is why they released their name Wednesday.’ In fact, on March 31, 2020, the Shelby County Health Department reached out to our community to let us know they would be releasing our name to the public as a location with confirmed cases of COVID-19 the following day, and they provided us with the option of creating our own press release. Out of respect for the privacy of our residents and their families and in support of the leadership of the Shelby County Health Department, we chose to use our time to individually update our residents, resident family members, and team members, as we would have done regardless of whether or not the Department released the information.”

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter reiterated to WMC Action News 5 Friday that they would not have had to release the facility's name and its COVID-19 positive cases to the public Wednesday had the facility initially done so itself, as the health department asked.

Haushalter said the department prefers for organizations to identify positive cases on their own, without requiring a formal announcement from the department.

Assisted living facilities are subject to inspection by the Tennessee Department of Health. WMC Action News 5 found three disciplinary actions listed for Carriage Court of Memphis from 2018, 2019, and 2020. All disciplinary actions we discovered included fines.

The facility was put on probation in 2019 after investigators wrote staff had not been trained on how to assist residents in emergency evacuations. One resident fell and broke a hip during a fire drill while another was left in a locked room in a separate fire drill.

State inspection documents also raised concern with care plans for residents not being filed in a timely manner.

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