Most California nursing homes with COVID-19 cases have infection-related deficiencies

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ABC 30 Action News, April 23 2020

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — According to an analysis of data by Action News, 95% of California nursing homes with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been cited by federal health inspectors at least once in recent years for not doing enough to control the spread of infections.

Like many others around the state, two South Valley nursing homes hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks have received demerits for infection-related procedures.

In the last three years, Redwood Springs Healthcare Center has had four deficiencies.

In April of 2017, for instance, the nursing home was cited for failing to label a biohazard storage area, not properly labeling cleaning and disinfectant products, and not following manufacturer directions when using those products-which inspectors said could lead to rooms not being disinfected.

Federal inspectors have also cited Lindsay Gardens Nursing & Rehabilitation three times in the last three years for infection deficiencies.

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Both nursing homes say they have improved their protocols.

But Michael Dark, a staff attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, says infection control deficiencies at long-term care facilities are directly related to their minimal staffing-which is driven by a desire for maximum profits.

“When you cut staff, you don’t have enough people to provide care, and you also aren’t able to keep the facility clean,” Dark said.

Dark adds that because of weak enforcement by state and federal regulators, nursing homes may not take infection control as seriously as they should.

That could create a dangerous situation for those sites currently dealing with a COVID-19 crisis.

“So what you have are facilities full of staff who sometimes aren’t familiar even with basic hand hygiene and handwashing, certainly don’t have access to good PPE, and crucially, they’re not able to maintain safe social distances from the residents that they’re caring for,” Dark said.

The federal government gives Lindsay Gardens an overall rating of above average, with an average health inspection rating.

Redwood Springs’ overall score is far below average, and so is their health inspection rating.

Lindsay Gardens released the following statement about past infection-related deficiencies:

“In light of the pandemic, we have enhanced our infection control protocols in a number of ways, consistent with guidance from the CDC, CMS and other federal, state and local healthcare authorities. Those enhancements include, among others, restricting non-medically necessary visits to our facility, screening employees and residents for symptoms and high temperatures, isolating persons who show signs or symptoms, avoiding group activities, and implementing appropriate protocols for residents, staff and family members. We, like other nursing facilities, have had deficiencies in the past that we have addressed promptly when identified by the California Department of Public Health. To comply with applicable regulations and keep our residents and staff safe we’ve taken a number of additional measures to update our facility’s infection prevention and control program which includes enhanced monitoring of antibiotic use. The three deficiencies identified in your question resulted in no patient or staff harm and were principally administrative in nature. COVID-19 is unprecedented for us and for other healthcare providers in California and around the world, and with the guidance and assistance of the healthcare authorities we are working hard avoid the virus and care for residents in the best way possible.”

Redwood Springs also released a statement:

“We take such reports seriously, that that report was no exception. We continually review all our protocols and procedures to ensure the safety and security of all our patients, health professionals, and visitors to Redwood Springs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid purposely make their criteria for such matters stringent, and their observations only help us be even better than we are. We do so as part of our unwavering commitment to provide the highest level of care for the patient and their families.”