Coronavirus fears are prompting some people to relocate family members, but health officials say it isn't a decision to be made lightly.
Author: Karla Hult
Published: 2:02 AM CDT April 28, 2020
Updated: 9:34 PM CDT April 28, 2020
MINNEAPOLIS — EDITOR'S NOTE: You can find statements from Saint Therese and North Ridge Health and Rehab at the foot of the story. The five siblings knew something was wrong when their mother could no longer take their calls.
“When she was so sick she couldn’t answer the phone, that’s when we knew we had to take action. That’s when we called North Ridge and said, ‘you’ve got to test mom,’” said Patti Schuveiller, the daughter of 90-year-old Joyce Roycraft. On Tuesday, Schuveiller joined her sister, Becky Judge, and brother, Mike Roycraft, to talk virtually with KARE 11 about the last couple of weeks with their mom, who already battles dementia, heart and kidney issues.
The siblings described how their mother suddenly lost 20 pounds, had become weaker and was no longer able to get out of bed, prompting them to demand that her care center – North Ridge Health and Rehab – give her a coronavirus test. As soon as they learned she’d tested positive, the family acted quickly: moving their mother to a hospital for emergency care. “My mom called me and said, ‘If you wouldn’t have called the ambulance and gotten me to the hospital, I wouldn’t have survived this, I would’ve been dead. You saved my life,” Becky recalled on Tuesday, before adding, “We need to protect the elderly.”
“The hard part has been the lack of information,” Mike noted.
His sister Patti added: “The lack of information, the lack of action.”
A look back According to an analysis by KARE 11, North Ridge Health and Rehab is part of a pandemic cluster. At least 13 residents have died of COVID-19 at North Ridge, according to our analysis, and 60 have tested positive, according to a statement from North Ridge. Meantime, at least 22 residents have died at St. Therese of New Hope, a facility about a mile away from North Ridge.
According to a KARE review, both facilities have received critical reports. An inspection review from January 2020 found 23 health and safety violations at North Ridge. And at St. Therese, a 2018 report detailed how a resident suffered second-degree burns when her bed was placed by a heater. A 2019 report also showed inspectors found St. Therese responsible for maltreating a vulnerable adult. KARE 11 reached out to both facilities, and you can find their full statements here: Statement from St. Therese: St. Therese of New Hope is a 258-bed long-term care center that has effectively been operating in the center of the COVID-19 pandemic for weeks, even though we began taking rigorous preventive measures such as closing the building to visitors, vendors and partners starting the week of March 9. Our first confirmed case – five days after testing finally became available to us – was on April 5.
The very next day our first resident died of COVID-19-related causes. Since then, despite our best efforts to respond by isolating residents who tested positive, the death toll has risen. This has been a devastating experience for our residents and their families, watching so many friends and neighbors pass away, even in a facility that houses one of the state’s largest hospice and palliative care units (45 beds), where an average of 15-20 people die per month. Our staff has also suffered while doing their utmost for patients in a care center that has served this community for 50 years. We extend our deepest condolences to and our prayers for the families of the residents who have passed.
We are privileged to provide professional, compassionate and loving care to a diverse group of residents. Many COVID-19 patients throughout the country are admitted to hospitals where they rely on ventilators to treat their symptoms, and hopefully recover. But nursing home residents in frail health, including many of ours, typically have advance directives, including Do Not Intubate/Do Not Resuscitate orders to forego life sustaining treatments. But we keep them as comfortable as possible.
Throughout this ordeal we have worked closely and transparently with infection control specialists of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), who were aware of our massive, rapid effort to move more than 100 residents to create both positive and negative cohorts in order to protect the residents from infection and conserve scarce personal protective equipment (PPE). Our long-term care residents live in extremely close quarters -- two per room and four sharing bathrooms – putting us at a disadvantage in the fight against COVID-19, especially when so many residents who tested positive were asymptomatic (roughly one third). Our facility was inspected by the MDH twice during this outbreak, once on March 31 – April 1 and again on April 14. After the first inspection we were given a written notice of no deficiencies, meaning we were operating in compliance with our license. On the second inspection we were told verbally that we had no deficiencies. The hard challenge is that, unlike flu, there is no prophylactic treatment for COVID-19. It is transmitted very efficiently and remains invisible for days before symptoms appear.
Older adults are the most at-risk to experience severe symptoms from this virus. According to MDH: 84% of all COVID-related deaths are 70 years or older while the CDC has confirmed 57% of total deaths were 75 or older. Because there are no therapies or approved treatments for COVID-19, all health care facilities will continue to see a rise in cases—this virus spares no one. All but one of our residents lost to COVID-19 were over 85. In all cases, physical condition of health was not suitable for resisting the ravages of this disease. Our staff of 467 has worked with great dedication to the residents under the most trying circumstances.
Sixty-five of them were either exposed to the virus or exhibited symptoms and have been out of work, including 50 caregivers such as nurses and certified nursing assistants. We have trained ancillary staff such as therapists, dietitians, social workers, etc. to help continue to meet the care needs of the residents.
The community should understand this extremely difficult situation continues, especially for densely populated centers like our long-term care facility. We are doing the very best we can to take the best care possible of our residents.
Statement from North Ridge Health and Rehab: Resident safety is our top priority. We don’t just care for our residents; we also care about them. We are doing everything we can to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19 within North Ridge Health and Rehab, including staying in very close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking all the appropriate steps. We continue with:
a strict “no visitation policy
ongoing shift-to-shift health screenings for all employees
PPE use per CDC Guidelines
enhanced and frequent cleaning and disinfection throughout our buildings
Have dedicated Covid units to care for our residents while also reducing risk to others.
Partnered with MDH and ICAR (infection control) for a comprehensive review of our pandemic plan to ensure that all CDC and MDH recommendations are in place.
Worked with MDH for tracing of cases to ensure that any potential sources are screened and quarantined as per CDC guidelines
All residents are monitored every day for onset and worsening of symptoms with nursing leadership reviewing all charting and abnormal VS
Leadership staff members have been on site Monday through Sunday since prior to the first confirmed case – educating and preparing staff and providing support for staff and residents alike.
Partnered with our community hospitals in caring for community members that have a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
Right now, we have 60 residents who are positive, we have 18 residents who have tested negative, and 18 residents who have recovered. In regards to the results from our annual survey in January of 2020:
Infection control practices at North Ridge Health and Rehab are consistently monitored and evaluated for improvement. Four months ago, it was noted that plans were necessary to reeducate our staff on infection control. A plan or correction was immediately put into place and accepted by MDH. Since then, the community has successfully completed an MDH lead COVID-19 survey as mandated by CMS and we were found to be in compliance with those requirements.
In their statement, St. Therese referenced their “rigorous preventive measures,” willingness to work with state health officials and the reality of residents in “frail health” living in close quarters.
And in their statement, North Ridge said staff are doing everything they can to stop the spread of infection, saying, “Resident safety is our top priority.” ‘She’s fighting’ Meantime, Joyce Roycraft continues to recover from COVID-19 at a Fridley rehab facility dedicated to positive coronavirus patients. And while her family believes she’ll win her battle, they also plan to fight alongside her.
“I think the most important thing is to really know the patients in their facility. If there are changes, to notify the family,” said Becky Judge.
“She’s fighting. She’s fighting really hard,” Patti said about her mom, adding, “And she’s going to get through this. KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11. The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.