Five residents of the FutureCare Lochearn nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19 and more test results are pending, according to a source with a family member who works there.
How many more results are pending? “They just said more,” the source said.
The source also said management told staff who interacted with patients not to wear masks for a period last week, echoing what a nurse at FutureCare’s Canton facility also told The Brew.
Lochearn is the fourth FutureCare location with known coronavirus cases.
All four locations are in Baltimore City. There are 12 known cases at FutureCare’s Good Samaritan location on East Belvedere Avenue, Cold Spring location on Harford Road and Canton Harbor facility at Boston Street and Ellwood Avenue.
Multiple current and former employees say management is doing a poor job of stopping the pandemic from passing through its doors.
“They [staff] do not want to lose their jobs, but are concerned for their safety, and they don’t feel like they have the right information to stay safe,” said the source who wished not to be identified because of fears that their family member may be fired.
Fear has swept across Maryland’s nursing home industry in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Carroll County, where 112 residents and staff have tested positive and 17 people have died as of Wednesday, WJZ reported.
Seniors, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are at greater risk from the virus than the general public.
FutureCare operates 15 homes in the Baltimore area. It is owned by the Attman family, who started out as grocers whose deli became a fixture on East Lombard Street and have since expanded into paper supplies, shopping centers, apartment buildings and industrial parks as well as nursing homes. The president, CEO and co-founder of FutureCare is Gary L. Attman.
The Brew has left messages with FutureCare’s Lochearn manager, Franco Pastore, that have not been answered. Numerous attempts over the last week to reach its corporate counsel, Holly O’Shea, have been unsuccessful.
On its website, FutureCare does not disclose the number of patients or staff who have tested positive, but says it has taken steps “first to prevent and then to mitigate and limit the spread of the virus.”
All visitations to its nursing homes, including by family members of patients, have been sharply restricted, and essential personnel, health providers and outside vendors are being screened, the company says.
So far, the virus has spread to 90 nursing homes in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday.
The governor’s office has not released the names of the facilities with positive COVID-19 cases.
Maryland Department of Health spokesman Charles Gischlar declined a request for a list of the facilities with confirmed cases, along with the number of cases and the deaths at each location. He cited HIPAA regulations and confidentiality laws.
In response to the outbreaks at Pleasant View and elsewhere, Hogan issued orders last Sunday requiring nursing home staff to wear full protective equipment, and empowering local health and police departments to enforce social distancing rules.
Earlier this week, the governor announced the creation of “strike teams” to provide immediate support to nursing homes.
Consisting of health care professionals and members of the National Guard, the teams will bring equipment and supplies directly to nursing facilities with the aim of stemming the number and severity of cases and reducing the transfer of sick patients to local hospitals.
Deborah Clarke, a nurse at FutureCare’s Canton facility, said workplace conditions have been much better since Hogan ordered nursing homes to give staff protective equipment.
“It’s like night and day,” Clarke said this week compared to a week before.
A Personal Rebuke
Another nurse who recently left FutureCare said the company did not have a plan in place to deal when the virus struck late last month.
“Every patient that became exposed to COVID could have easily been prevented,” said the source, who wished not to be identified for fear of retribution.
“I was forbidden to wear masks while caring for patients and when an elderly patient became fever ridden, and I recommended to a colleague to think about wearing a mask when caring for her,” the source said. “I received a personal rebuke by the director of nursing.”
Chemia Hughes-Mitchell, who works in the social services department at the Canton location, said she wasn’t notified via the staff text messaging system when Hogan tightened rules on nursing homes on Sunday.
Instead, she said she and her colleagues only heard about it via word of mouth. After working for a few hours on Monday morning, she said someone told her that she was required to wear a mask, face shield, gown and gloves.
“I would have appreciated knowing this before coming into work,” she said. “And I’d rather something come top-down.”
Noting that she could be fired for speaking on the record to a reporter, she said, “I may lose the job, but I feel like this is not the time to be misinformed.”
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