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'Makes Me Angry': Several Nursing Homes In Colorado Had Infection Control Deficiencies Prior To COVID-19 Outbreak

(CBS4) - There are at least 15 nursing homes across Colorado now facing deadly outbreaks inside their walls that were also found to have infection control deficiencies in the last two years, according to a CBS4 analysis of state and federal records.

There have been more than 200 COVID-19 deaths at the nursing homes across Colorado, and more than 400 deaths at all residential care facilities in the state combined. Of the more than 200 deaths in the 66 nursing homes in the state, 92 of them occurred at the 15 facilities that had been previously cited for not having an adequate infection control plan in place, according to a CBS4 analysis of state data.

State data shows the Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora had the largest nursing home outbreak in the state, with 59 confirmed cases and 23 confirmed deaths. Medicare inspection records show the facility was cited for an infection prevention and control program deficiency when it was inspected in September 2019.

Linda Bruntz said both of her parents died of COVID-19 at the Cherry Creek Nursing Center in April.

Doloras Lisco, 92, died of COVID-19 at the Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora, according to her family. (credit: Linda Bruntz)

Her father, Harold Seeger, 96, died first, on April 4. Her mother, Doloras Lisco, 92, died nine days later. The two were divorced, but had reunited at the nursing home.

Bruntz said her father fought in WWII, in the Invasion of Normandy.

Harold Seeger with family. (credit: Linda Bruntz)

"It's hard, we were expecting to have them around for a few more years. I think it took them too soon," Bruntz said. "I know some people would say '90 years old, they had a good life,' yes they did have a good life, but they could have had a little bit longer life."

In the last two years of inspections, the Cherry Creek Nursing Center was found to have more than 40 deficiencies. It's overall Medicare rating is "below average."

Asked about the previous inspections of her parents' nursing home, Bruntz said, "it makes me angry, there's a lot of people who lost their parents out there, a lot of people, and it's not right... I feel like they took my parents."

Aside from the Cherry Creek Nursing Center, the other 14 nursing homes facing COVID-19 outbreaks that also had infection control deficiencies during an inspection within the last two years, according to public records, are: Lowry Hills Care and Rehab, Center at Lowry, Cherrelyn Healthcare Center, Cherry Creek Nursing Center, Pearl Street Health and Rehabilitation, Boulder Manor, Peaks Care Center, Amberwood Court Rehab, Parkview Care Center, Aspen Living Center, Laurel Manor Care Center, Mountain Vista Health Center, North Shore Health and Rehab, Eben Ezer Lutheran Care, and Casey's Pond Senior Living.

NURSING HOME DEATHS 10 PKG.transfer_frame_348
(credit: CBS)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says those facilities did rectify their infection control deficiencies. A spokesperson for CDPHE said a facility must rectify deficiencies found in inspections by submitting a plan to the state for approval. The state then follows up on that plan by conducting a follow-up visit to ensure the plan has been put in place.

"The revisit investigation may occur at the facility, or by an off-site investigation (review of implementation of the plan)," the CDPHE spokesperson said in an email to CBS4.

But, Bruntz would like to see the state do more to follow up on inspections and hold nursing homes accountable.

"They weren't ready for a pandemic, or any serious illness that would wipe through a nursing home," Bruntz said.

The CDPHE said it's currently conducting infection control visits to ensure nursing homes are mitigating potential spread of COVID-19. A spokesperson for CDPHE said as of now, the department does not believe state budget cuts will impact the nursing home inspection program.

The Cherry Creek Nursing Center said 35 of its residents have recovered from the virus and there are currently "0 residents with COVID-19 at the Center."

"The 2019 reports were rectified with approval of state officials well before COVID-19 was even recognized as a disease. In April, the facility's leadership conducted two virtual tours of Cherry Creek with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment," a spokesperson for the Cherry Creek Nursing Center said in a statement to CBS4. "The staff will continue their tireless work within the Center on behalf of the residents, even in the face of this pandemic."

The statement went on to say, "Since the outbreak began the Center been collaborating closely with the Tri-County Health Department in order to protect our residents and staff. We did the following:
· Closed the center to visitors, including family members;
· Isolated residents showing even the mildest possible symptom;
· Contacted all residents' families, explaining the closing and providing them options for contacting their loved ones;
· Coordinated with state and local health officials to ensure appropriate steps are being taken at the facility.
· Minimized all social contact, encouraged social distancing, ended communal dining and group activities; and encouraged handwashing."

A spokesperson for Vivage Senior Living, which oversees Parkview Care Center and Amberwood Court Rehabilitation, said the company has implemented a number of safety measures. The spokesperson provided this document to answer several questions regarding outbreaks at the facilities.

A spokesperson for Casey's Pond said, "in our 2019 survey there was a notation of a minimal harm deficiency impacting few residents surrounding appropriate use of a blood glucose monitor. We immediately submitted our plan of correction which includes education and consistent monitoring to ensure compliance. We just received an infection control survey on April 9th from CDPHE for both our skilled nursing and assisted living neighborhoods and received zero deficiencies, no concerns."

The Casey's Pond spokesperson also said any other information regarding the facility's COVID-19 safety measures is on its website.

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