Older COVID-positive patients who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are being sent to Florida nursing homes after a hospital discharge to recover. They need to test negative twice before they can return to their residences.
These so-called isolation centers, though, already have COVID-19 outbreaks among permanent residents.
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Deaths are beginning to grow, too. Barbara Fleming’s mother died July 17, two days after going into the hospital because of COVID-19. She had been living at Tamarac Rehab.
"We’re angry. We’re very upset," Fleming said. "My mom was healthy."
She says at least two other women have died at Tamarac Rehab in recent days.
“We continue to closely monitor facilities to ensure the health and safety of residents," wrote a spokesperson for the state's Agency for Healthcare Administration wrote to WLRN in an email. The administration is in charge of overseeing these nursing centers.
"It’s a very thorough process," says Kristen Knapp, a spokesperson for the Florida Health Care Association. It represents hundreds of nursing centers across Florida. She says AHCA does work closely with each one to ensure it can take in COVID-19 patients.
She also says they each receive additional money for taking in COVID patients.
Andrew Weisman, president and CEO of NuVision, the company that owns Tamarac Rehab, gave another reason for taking in patients. In an interview with WPLG Local 10, he said it's to help out hospitals dealing with a surge in patients.
"It’s also that the hospitals are having a problem with a surge in demand and availability of beds," he said. "That’s really the crisis."
To Barbara Fleming, the crisis is that the COVID outbreak happened even before they opened up 50 beds for new isolation patients.
"If they had told me weeks prior, I would have taken my mom out," she said, and would have brought her to live in her house.
Her mother, Helen Hellinger, died before the isolation center patients arrived. Neither the state nor the facility has told WLRN how they’re ensuring that the new patients won’t spread the virus to existing residents.