Skip to content

Year of the Plague – 11 – Colorado Nursing Homes Getting Clobbered With Coronavirus…

April 11, 2020

During better times. Members of ColoradoWINS – state employees union; These women worked at a state nursing home at the time.

___________________________________________

There are some suggestions – at this point anecdotal – that the Colorado nursing home staffing shortage has resulting in facility managers to stay on the job even after they have tested positive. Similar reports have surfaced all over the country in hospitals and nursing home facilities.

Such claims need investigation and if proven to be the case, these facility managers should be indicted from where I’m sitting. 

___________________________________________

After a rough decade, the situation at one Colorado state-run nursing home improved… 

Over the past decade, in large measure because my wife worked in one of these facilities until her retirement a year ago – a state-run nursing home for veterans – I have tried to keep up on the state of nursing home conditions her. Hers, the Colorado State Veterans Home in Aurora was rife with problems/crisis from its inception until a year or so ago, when finally, it appeared, the situation improved and settled down some.

A combination of an overworked and underpaid staff, an unstable (and in my view impressively incompetent and at times repressive management) along with a dysfunctional state social services department resulted in a sea of problems, many of which should have been and could have been handled better. The governor for most of the time that ‘Fitz’ lurched from crisis to crisis was John Hickenlooper, whom bears a lot of responsibility for the how poorly things were run there – and throughout the system. His head of Social Services, one Reggie Bicha, has to have been one of the worst administrators in the state’s history.

But now Hickenlooper has gone – or trying to go to – greener pastures – he’s running for the U.S. Senate after a pathetic effort to win the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency. His whole campaign was little more than an attack on Bernie Sanders’ program of “Medicare For All”  with his constant parrot-like repetition of “I’m not a socialist; I’m not a socialist.” For his mismanagement of the Health and Human Services Department alone he should be retired from office. I hope he loses the senatorial nomination although the conservatives and monied elements in Colorado’s Democratic Party are supporting him. A lose as a governor, whose main claim to fame is drinking fracking water and claiming it was safe – he’d make an even worse U.S. Senator.

In any case, some of the more egregious forms of institutional neglect have been dealt with once Jared Polis came to power, “Fitz’ finally has an administrative team far improved over what was and, if the institution has problems – as all institutions – public or private – do, it seemed the storms had passed and that of course is a good thing.

Still in touch with several dozen employees there – many now life-long friends – and wondered how things are going at “Fitz.” There are some minor problems I’ve heard about from several sources, but compared to what’s happening in the rest of the Colorado Nursing Home system – both public and private – the Colorado State Veterans’ Home in Aurora has, for the most part, weathered the storm. The fact that – besides the management improvements that came with Hickenlooper and Bicha’s departure from the scene, there is another element: the union membership at Fitz has grown significantly and for the first time in a decade, the relationship between the union and management has improved, the anti-union bigotry that characterized the place subsided, at least temporarily.

Some very good union organizing went on there.

And then came Coronavirus.

But if the Fitzsimons’ facility is doing better, the rest of the nursing home system – referred to as long term care facilities – is in deep crisis, with the Coronavirus hitting Colorado nursing homes with nothing short of a vengeance. In the past two days, the extent of the nursing home pandemic has hit the public airwaves.

Yesterday, on April 10, WCBS News ran a segment on it which began with a report that some 59 long term care facilities in at least eleven Colorado counties had Coronavirus outbreaks. It is a part of a national pandemic specifically hitting nursing homes throughout the United States; articles on the extent of the Coronavirus infecting nursing homes began to appear already in early April’ but now, some ten days later, the situation is even worse.

The reporting zeroed in on a facility in Greeley, Colorado, where incidentally, one of the largest meat packing plants in the country with 6000 employees, the JBS Meat Packing Plant, was closed down after several hundred employees, many of them immigrants, tested positive for COVID-19 that included 2 deaths. It took a union (United Food and Commercial Workers’) complaint to the governor to close the place’s doors for a week and to get all employees tested.

The Greeley nursing home that has been hit by the virus is Centennial Healtcare Center. It has lost 19 residents, 14 of whose deaths are directly attributed to Coronavirus. The other five might have also died from the virus but “those patients were either not tested or the center is waiting for the results.”  Another fifteen residents  tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom has been hospitalized. The same article mentions another nursing home, this one in Brighton, Colorado, where five residents have died in the past two weeks and a dozen others have been “presumed” positive for COVID019.

That was yesterday. More reporting on COVID-19 nursing home outbreaks followed today, April 11 when several related stories appeared in The Denver Post, the first sentence of which read “At least 274 people in Colorado have died from complications of the novel coronavirus, while outbreaks at nursing homes continue to rise, state health officials announced Saturday.”

A day after one media had announced that 59 nursing homes had been infected with the Coronavirus, The Denver Post  noted that the number of effected facilities had risen already to 67 where outbreaks had taken place. This article linked to another “As many as eight COVID-19 deaths at Aurora assisted-living facility as statewide deaths reach 274.” The eight elderly referred to here died the Juniper Village facility in Aurora. Another 49 others “living or working at” the assisted living facility have tested positive for COVID-19. After learning that some staff members tested positive at Juniper Village, the administrators there tested all workers and residents. 33 of 46 residents and 16 of 25 staff members tested positive.

As The Post, pointed out, as of April 5, now a week ago, nearly 40% of the people who have died of complications  from Coronavirus were living in nursing homes or residential healthcare facilities, a sizable chunk of the overall deaths. All tolled some 34,800 Colorado residents have been tested. But considering that the state has 5,800,000 residents this figure represents a measly .006% (that is 6/1000 of 1%), not much of a data base to work from.

What is not clear from the reports is how the state and the private sector are dealing with this nursing home pandemic. Even during the best of times Colorado nursing homes have been chronically understaffed for a variety of reasons. There are some suggestions – at this point anecdotal – that the Colorado nursing home staffing shortage has resulting in facility managers to stay on the job even after they have tested positive. Similar reports have surfaced all over the country in hospitals and nursing home facilities.

Such claims need investigation and if proven to be the case, these facility managers should be indicted from where I’m sitting. 

(More on the Colorado nursing home pandemic as the information becomes available)…

 

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: