COVID-19: I-Team Investigation reveals far more nursing home cases than reported by state

COVID-19: I-Team Investigation reveals far more nursing home cases than reported by state

As families continue to mourn hundreds of Ohio nursing home patients killed by COVID-19 this year, a I-Team investigation revealed discrepancies in numbers published by the state aimed at informing the public.

The information in question is posted on the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 Long Term Care dashboard, a page created in mid-April. Governor Mike DeWine said in April, it’s a page families should be able to consult and rely on if they were considering a placing a loved on in a nursing home.

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“If you’re thinking about taking a loved one, or if you’re thinking about going to a nursing home you have every right to know what the situation is there, DeWine said, “and so we want to make sure you have all that information.”

The I-Team’s investigation found the discrepancy in data is stark when looking at the data at three nursing homes in the Miami Valley that have faced deadly COVID-19 outbreaks this spring.

- When the I-Team examined May 6 data, the state reported a total of two cumulative cases for Koester Pavilion in Miami County. But the I-Team’s numbers obtained Monday from Miami County Public Health revealed a total of 61 staff and patient confirmed COVID-19 infections, 74 additional probable cases, and 12 deaths (11 confirmed COVID-19, one probable). The state webpage was updated on May 14 showing a total of 107 Koester Pavilion resident and staff cases. That is still 28 less than the total Koester Pavilion reports.

- On May 6, the state reported no data for SpringMeade Health Center in Tipp City, but Monday’s numbers released to the I-Team show a total of 35 resident and staff cases, 58 probable cases, and 11 deaths (nine confirmed COVID-19, two probable). As of the May 14 update, SpringMeade’s cases had been updated to reflect 83 resident and staff cases, still short of the total 93 cases SpringMeade reports.

- Ohio’s page showed 30 resident and staff confirmed COVID-19 cases at Greenville Health & Rehabilitation Center in Darke County. But the nursing home itself told the I-Team it had 75 cases and 20 deaths.

The I-Team took this discrepancy to the state. In an email, an Ohio Department of Health Spokesperson said the state only started recording nursing home data as of April 15, and has no current plans to examine data prior to that date.

“We will never know if we had accurate data before April 15,” she said.

And while this data clearly does not tell the whole story when it comes to patient infections at Ohio nursing homes – something Gov. DeWine promised last month – experts and local health officials reassured the I-Team this should not be affecting patient care at individual homes.

“They know who has recovered,” said Pete Van Runkle, Executive Director of the Ohio Health Care Association, the trade organization for the long term care facility industry in Ohio.

Premier Health, which operates Koester Pavilion and Springmeade Health Center in Miami County, added it has “been in frequent communication with Miami County Public Health,” which “has a full accounting of (COVID-19) cases, including those that were confirmed or suspected prior to April 15.”

The I-team is still waiting on Gov. Dewine’s office to respond, after finding local nursing homes say they have complete numbers, ready to report, before April 15th.

FULL Statement from Ohio Department of Health:

5/11/20: The state only started recording data as of April 15. That means any cases that long term care facilities had prior to that date and the people recovered or passed away, they would not be included. We don't have a mechanism right now, or do we plan to go back at this time to look at prior data due to the fact that there wasn't a mandatory way for local health departments to report long term care cases so we will never know if we had accurate data before April 15.

5/13/20: Of all the Long-Term Care positive cases in Ohio, 22% of them have passed away. This percentage number is of all cases since the start of the response, not just since April 15.

The Ohio Department of Health did track long term care cases since the start of the response, but not by facility. The reason is because our information system did not have a defined field for this information. A new form collecting facility information was added and reporting became mandatory beginning April 15. This is when we started to collect the data you currently see on the website. ODH cannot track facility cases before this date because we do not believe the information would be accurate.

Local health departments did however still report in cases to the state since the beginning of the pandemic. For our data to remain consistent and comparable, we have only provided long term care facility death information on the same date that we started to track facilities numbers.

FULL Statement from Premier Health:

1) Q: First, just since we’ll be mentioning those facilities, I wanted to make sure Koester/SpringMeade management had a chance to offer any sort of general comment to the public – if there was something they wanted the public to hear from them, etc.

A: Koester Pavilion and SpringMeade Health Center continue to work closely with local and state health officials, in addition to following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our clinical and support teams are well-prepared to care for residents with COVID-19 while ensuring their safety and that of our staff. We are incredibly proud of the skill, the poise, the camaraderie, and the compassion that the employees at Koester Pavilion and SpringMeade Health Center are showing to our residents and to each other during this pandemic. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all those who have lost loved ones.”

2) Q: We have heard from relatives who were a bit surprised they did not get more immediate notification once the first cases were confirmed at the facility (I know this is something the health director has since issued some further guidance on). Any comment on that particular concern?

A: We began notifying family members immediately upon learning that we had suspected cases of COVID-19 at our skilled nursing facilities. These notifications are made to each resident’s primary contact. We rely on those primary contacts to share this information with other family members and loved ones.

3) Q: ODH, as you probably know, started tracking cases on April 15 for long term care facilities, and told me they may never know how many were infected prior to that date. That’s obviously at the state level… have Koester & Springmeade kept detailed notes on who has been affected by confirmed or probable cases? (I’d assume that would just be a part of a patient’s medical file like any other medical situation?)

A: From the earliest days of the pandemic, we have been in frequent communication with Miami County Public Health officials regarding COVID-19 cases at Koester Pavilion and at SpringMeade. Miami County Public Health has a full accounting of these cases, including those cases that were confirmed or suspected prior to April 15, and has shared those details with the news media.