CARBON HILL, Ala. (WIAT) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in nursing homes across Alabama, additional deaths are being reported at facilities in rural areas.
Healthcare workers continue to do all they can to try and minimize the spread of the virus, but they need help from neighbors to follow precautions so that caregivers aren’t exposed.
“We’ve certainly heard from folks who are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 into nursing homes that are located in rural areas,” said John Matson, a spokesperson for the Alabama Nursing Home Association.
Matson pointed to research released by the American Health Care Association that showed nursing homes with outbreaks of the virus are located in communities that are also experiencing high volumes in cases.
“As COVID-19 maybe moves from our urban and suburban areas into rural areas and you see outbreaks in rural areas you will see outbreaks in nursing homes because a nursing home is a reflection of the community,” said Matson.
In a town of around 2,000 people, Carbon Hill only has one nursing home. The facility is already reporting 9 deaths according to data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“For us to have those kinds of numbers, it is very alarming,” said Carbon Hill Mayor April Herron.
Herron said knew someone who died after contracting the virus at the nursing home facility.
“It was hard because we couldn’t go to the funeral, and I have known this lady since I was a baby. She was very much a part of my childhood,” said Herron.
While Herron knows that many of her residents don’t like wearing masks, she hopes they will wear them for the sake of others, who may be caring for those who are vulnerable.
“If they contract COVID and they don’t know it because somebody came to the Dollar General and coughed or sneezed, and they contracted it, they’re going to take it into these people that are vulnerable,” said Herron.
In a small town, Herron said she doesn’t have the resources to enforce a mask order. She wants to see neighbors do the right thing.
“It’s not going anywhere. We’ve got to do our part to prevent it from spreading, especially our most vulnerable need to be protected,” said Herron.
CMS data on COVID-19 infections in nursing homes is released every week. Numbers are a few weeks behind due to a lag in reporting.
Matson said it is too soon to tell if cases are leveling off in nursing homes.
“We’ve seen nursing homes that had a large outbreak of COVID-19 early on in the pandemic who are now COVID free or maybe have one or two COVID cases in their building, and we’re also seeing nursing homes that were able to be COVID free for a long time now starting to experience their first cases or maybe having an outbreak, so it really just ranges across the state,” said Matson.
In addition to the physical strain on healthcare workers, Matson reminded people of the emotional toll from caring for infected patients.
“The employees start to think of those residents as their family members so once a nursing home resident passes away, our nursing home employees grieve a loss almost as if they’re related to this person, so with COVID-19, unfortunately we are not able to grieve,” said Matson.
Below are the number of deaths being reported at facilities across central Alabama according to statistics from the CMS data site.
26 deaths reported in residents at Diversicare of Bessemer
18 deaths reported in residents at South Haven Health and Rehab LLC in Hoover
15 deaths reported in residents at Ridgeview Health Services in Jasper
13 deaths reported in residents at Diversicare of Winfield
13 deaths reported in residents at Diversicare of Riverchase
11 deaths reported in residents at Greene County Nursing Home in Eutaw
11 deaths reported in residents at Colonial Haven Care and Rehabilitation Center in Greensboro
11 deaths reported in residents at Baron House of Hueytown
11 deaths reported in residents at Caregivers of Pleasant Grove
9 deaths reported in residents at Walker Rehabilitation Center in Carbon Hill
9 deaths reported in residents at Columbiana Health and Rehab LLC
7 deaths reported in residents at Forest Manor in Northport
7 deaths reported in residents at Marion Regional Nursing Home in Hamilton
6 deaths reported in residents at Cherokee County Health and Rehab in Centre
6 deaths reported in residents at Falkville Health Care Center
5 deaths reported in residents at North Hill Nursing and Rehab in Birmingham
4 deaths reported in residents at Shelby Ridge in Alabaster
4 deaths reported in residents at Hunter Creek Health and Rehab in Northport
2 deaths reported in residents at Kirkwood by the River in Birmingham
2 deaths reported in residents at Fayette Medical Center Long Term Care
2 deaths reported in residents at Cordova Health and Rehab
2 deaths reported in residents at Fair Haven in Birmingham
2 deaths reported in residents at Greeenbrier at Altamont Station in Birmingham
1 death reported in a resident at Talladega Healthcare Center
1 death reported in a resident at Hanceville Nursing and Rehab
1 death reported in a resident at Gadsden Health and Rehab
1 death reported in a resident at Hayleyville Health Care Center
1 death reported in a resident at Glen Haven in Northport
1 death reported in a resident at Ridgewood Health Services in Jasper
1 death reported in a resident at West Hill Health and Rehab in Birmingham
1 death reported in a resident at South Health and Rehab in Birmingham
CBS 42 reached out to facilities that reported a large increases in deaths.
Diversicare of Winfield did not respond to our requests for comment. Consult America, parent company for the facility in Carbon Hill also did not respond to our request for a statement.
Ridgview Health Services in Jasper provided CBS 42 with the following information and updated number of deaths.
Ridgeview Health Services has worked diligently since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to care for and protect its residents and staff members. Ridgeview Health Services has invested in new technology to assist with reducing the spread of COVID-19 such as Clorox Total 360 foggers, Ultraviolet lights installed in all facility HVAC units, air scrubbers, and professional cleaning services.
Since the pandemic began, 103 residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19. As of today, we have zero residents who are positive for COVID-19. Unfortunately, 20 residents have died due to COVID-19. Also, 83 employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19. To date, 80 staff members have recovered and returned to work, and three staff members are still positive and receiving appropriate medical care.
Ridgeview Health Services participated in on-site inspections by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on May 13 and July 29, 2020, and the Alabama Department of Public Health on June 11, 2020, related to its infection control protocols. The facility was found to be deficiency free during all inspections. We also participated in a conference call with the Centers for Disease Control on June 10, 2020, where we were notified that our current practices were sound.
We notify the Walker County Health Department, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each time we have a resident or staff member diagnosed with COVID-19. We also inform all our residents and their families and our staff members and will continue this process per regulations.
For several months, Ridgeview Health Services has restricted visitation and implemented infection control protocols in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Residents are screened for symptoms multiple times each day and staff members must pass temperature check and screening questions before they can enter the building.
The health and safety of our residents and staff is our top priority. We ask for the continued understanding and patience of the families with loved ones in our care as we do our very best to ensure the well-being of our residents.