Nursing Home Staff and Residents With COVID-19 Are Dialing 911 For Help
Reports from WGLT NPR show a COVID-19 outbreak at Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center had staff and nursing home residents calling 911 on numerous occasions, requesting for urgent help and resident transfers. The home is located at 925 S. Main St. in Bloomington. Illinois Department of Health coronavirus tracking reports show the facility is home to McLean County’s most significant COVID-19 outbreak to date. And the irony? Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center struggled to provide quality care and adequate staffing even before the virus hit, according to recent government inspections.
Medicare surveyor reports on the Nursing Home Compare website and IDPH inspection records show:
- Peoria-based Petersen Health Care owns Bloomington Rehab.
- The facility has a 1 of 5 stars (“Much Below Average”) for its overall rating from Medicare.
- Health Inspection and Quality Measures ratings are also “Much Below Average,” and its Staffing rating is “Below Average.”
- Bloomington Rehab faced 33 health citations stemming from its last inspection in 2019. That’s about three times as many as the average for a facility in Illinois.
- It earned 2 of 5 stars (“Below Average”) on Medicare’s Staffing rating, with fewer “nursing staff hours per resident per day”than state and national averages.
- In February 2020, just a month before coronavirus lockdowns hit, inspectors found the home wasoperating without a licensed administrator.
- Around 85% of Bloomington Rehab’s revenue in 2018 came from Medicaid.
The nursing home administrator said it restricted congregate activities and stopped allowing visitors in mid-March and it appears the outbreak occurred in early to mid-May. It is likely a staff member caught the highly infectious disease and brought it into work with them, and relaxed infectious disease prevention measures failed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to residents. Many nursing home employees, who are overworked and underpaid, are forced to be employed by multiple facilities to make ends meet.
An Outbreak, 911, Nearly 60 Confirmed Cases
Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center has reported 59 confirmed COVID-19 cases related to the May outbreak and 10 deaths, including both residents and staff. Records also show that the facility averages around 50 residents. WGLT reporting said during the outbreak period, “At least a dozen times an employee called for paramedics to come and take a deteriorating patient to the hospital. All those calls from Bloomington Rehab to 911 that week were nearly identical” except for one by a 72-year-old resident named Marlene Cowans-Hill. On Tuesday, May 12, she called for help herself, which is when paramedics arrived at her aid.
“Can’t somebody help me? I can’t breathe. I can’t catch my breath. I can’t catch my breath; I need to go to the hospital.”
While the elderly woman remained at the facility and was not transferred, just two days later, a nurse called 911 again, this time on the resident’s behalf after test results showed a positive confirmation for coronavirus. The nurse said Cowans-Hill’s oxygen was down. She was shivering. Her head hurt. And the patient was declining quickly. Cowan-Hill was then transported to OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, where she died the next day.
Other calls were made to 911 from Bloomington Rehab, including a nurse requesting a medical transfer and help for another resident. This time an 88-year-old resident was struggling in a COVID isolation hallway.
Levin & Perconti’s co-founder and senior partner, Steven Levin, is representing Cowans-Hill’s family. Levin told WGLT that his legal team experienced in nursing home neglect and abuse cases has begun gathering and reviewing records related to her situation, including the possibility that her symptoms were ignored or her move to the hospital was unnecessarily delayed.
Listen to the 911 calls obtained by WGLT and nursing home neglect attorney, Steven Levin’s interview with WGLT here.
The 911 calls reveal:
- Staff working under incredibly difficult circumstances as the virus spread.
- Staff repeatedly asking for declining patients to be taken to the hospital.
- Nurses were pleading with incoming paramedics to have proper personal protection equipment because of an influx of positive COVID-19 results.
On one call, a nurse can be heard saying, “We actually have a COVID-positive patient right now, and we can’t keep her stats up. She keeps dropping. Her temp’s up to 102. We need to send her in.”
Illinois nursing homes do not have legal immunity in “cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct.”
How You Can Better Support Illinois Nursing Home Residents
Of Illinois’ 6,671 deaths related to COVID-19, over half are tied to long-term care facilities. And as COVID-19 continues to spread, it has also magnified systemic breakdowns within Illinois’ long-term care facilities, nursing homes, or assisted living centers. It’s crucially important that we prevent and stop infectious disease spread in nursing homes, especially those tasked to care for the poor or disenfranchised but also within facilities that have earned 4-star “Above Average” quality of care ratings.
If you have information about the outbreak of COVID-19 in an Illinois long-term care facility, it is time to SPEAK UP for our most vulnerable citizens. This includes nursing home residents and their family members, and nursing home partners and employees with whistleblower complaints and stories of distress and unsafe working environments.
Do You Know Something About How Illinois Nursing Homes Are Coping With COVID-19?
At Levin & Perconti, we have the experience and resources to investigate claims and are currently standing up to violators who choose not to protect residents and staff from harm caused by COVID-19. If you are considering a legal case against an Illinois nursing home related to an infectious disease or want to share your story to help others, please contact us for a free consultation at 877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872. All calls and discussions with our Illinois nursing home negligence attorneys are free and confidential.