| The Repository
At least 250 nursing homes in Ohio have had residents die due to COVID-19 or its combination with other health problems.
And the deaths were concentrated in a quarter of those facilities, accounting for 60% of all coronavirus fatalities in the state’s nursing homes, a Cincinnati Enquirer analysis of federal data shows. Nursing homes have held the majority of the state’s coronavirus deaths, Ohio records show.
The Enquirer made the analysis of federal data after Ohio officials refused to identify nursing homes where residents have died. The federal database only includes about 60% of all the 2,710 deaths at nursing homes and other congregate care facilities in the state. That’s because of a loophole that didn’t require nursing homes to report deaths before May 1 and because the federal data doesn’t include assisted living or group care homes.
Nursing homes account for 64% of all of Ohio’s coronavirus deaths, the most recent state data shows.
The analysis of the federal data also reveals:
- Four nursing homes had per capita death rates so high that 1 of every 2 residents succumbed to the coronavirus. The facilities are located in Coshocton, Monroe, Ottawa and Wayne counties.
- Fourteen facilities had more than 20 deaths. One of them, Crandall Medical Center nursing home in Sebring, had 42, leading the state. Another home had 30.
- Workers at 10 nursing homes have died due to the coronavirus.
- A quarter of the nursing homes with deaths had only one fatality.
- Two nursing homes that have had at least 10 deaths are candidates to be placed on the federal government’s special focus facility list of nursing homes. The list is for facilities with a history of poor care.
This is the first time the full list of the 240-plus nursing homes with deaths has been published.
While the Enquirer used the federal tracking system to help with its reporting, the database has holes.
While Crandall’s numbers are high, a nursing home in Alliance is one that has a far higher death count than is listed in the report. Altercare of Alliance is listed in the federal statistics with one resident death. Altercare itself reports that 19 residents have died of COVID-19.
That signals all but one of Altercare’s deaths occurred before May 1. Altercare’s parent company has a complete list of cases and deaths for its facilities on its website, altercareonline.com.
Another Stark County nursing home is listed with 23 deaths Jackson Ridge Rehabilitation and Care Center in Canal Fulton. Other Stark County nursing facilities with more than 10 deaths listed are: Meadow Wind Health Care Center in Massillon (19), Amhert Meadows in Massillon (15) and St. Joseph Care Center in Louisville (14).
Christine Colella, professor and executive director of graduate programs at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing, believes the public should have been told of the deaths.
“Absolutely. I think the more knowledge anyone has, the better decisions they can make. I think we need to be as transparent as we can. People need to know,” Colella said. “We all hear about nursing homes in a general sense but nothing specific.”
Why are the deaths concentrated?
Seven nursing homes stand out on the list for having 25 deaths or more. Another seven had at least 20 deaths.
So what contributed to 42 deaths at a nursing home in Mahoning County, 30 at a facility in Wayne County and 29 at a location in suburban Columbus?
Failure of workers to follow infection control procedures is one reason why nursing homes, virtually sealed off from all outsiders since early in the pandemic, have had recent COVID-19 infections and deaths.
The three nursing homes declined interview requests. But Crandall Medical Center CEO David Mannion acknowledged it was unprecedented for so many patients to die in such a short period of time.
“They will not be the same after this,” CEO David Mannion said of his staff during an interview with The Canton Repository in June. “I won’t be the same after this.”
Dr. Joseph G. Ouslander, a nationally known professor of geriatric medicine at Florida Atlantic University, wrote in a report he co-authored on COVID-19 earlier this year, that the disease has put the nursing home industry in crisis.
“The combination of a vulnerable population … staffing shortages due to viral infection, inadequate resources for and availability of rapid, accurate testing and personal protective equipment, and lack of effective treatments for COVID-19 among nursing home residents have created a ‘perfect storm’,” he wrote. “From a public health standpoint, nursing homes must maintain intensive infection prevention and control education and procedures with continuing ongoing screening of all individuals who enter the facility.”
Most of the infections at nursing homes are coming from staff and people who are employed by the facilities, said Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, which represents more than 1,100 assisted living communities, home care and hospice care providers in Ohio.
“Typically, it’s staff members but sometimes it’s even consultants or contractors (therapists or lab technicians) who are going from one facility to another,” Van Runkle said.
Like Ouslander, Van Runkle noted most nursing home residents are susceptible to the coronavirus.
“Nursing facilities are full of people who are old and have medical conditions. That’s why they’re there. And in many cases in the last years of their lives. If they get COVID, their bodies can’t fight off the disease,” he said.
One case study in how the disease was deadly in some nursing homes comes from Licking County’s Newark Care and Rehabilitation center, which had 23 deaths. Inspection reports show the Newark facility failed to perform adequate contact tracing to properly identify, quarantine, and appropriately test all residents with known exposure to a staff member who had tested positive for COVID-19.
“This resulted in immediate jeopardy” on July 1 when a licensed practical nurse notified the facility she tested positive for COVID-19, according to a state report released after 25 deaths at the nursing home.
The nurse had last worked in the quarantine unit on June 25 where four residents resided but had been moved to other units in the facility between June 26 and June 30, health records show.
They had been placed in semi-private rooms with four other residents, resulting in the spread of COVID-19 and the death of residents.
“This resulted in the likelihood to cause serious harm injury or death and affected eight residents with the potential to affect all the residents in the facility,” according to the inspection report.