By Connie Morrison —
Two more Eastern Shore long-term care facilities have been added to the tally of local coronavirus outbreaks.
The Virginia Department of Health lists eight outbreaks on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, three of which are at long-term care facilities. The outbreak at the first, Heritage Hall, is documented in Carol Vaughn’s article on the front page of the Eastern Shore Post’s May 8 edition.
The department of health does not identify facilities by name. An outbreak is defined as two or more linked positive cases outside a household setting.
An employee of Shore Health and Rehabilitation, in Parksley, said workers there were notified Monday that a coworker had tested positive for COVID-19 and the source said a patient there has also tested positive. Because the employee was not authorized to release information and fears workplace retaliation, the Post agreed to withhold the employee’s name.
The Eastern Shore Post is trying to track down the location of the third long-term care facility outbreak. Long-term care facilities include assisted living communities, behavioral health residences, group homes, multi-care facilities, and nursing homes.
Kristie Annis, spokesperson for Commonwealth Senior Living at the Eastern Shore, in Onancock, said it has no known cases.
Mimi Sedjat, executive director of the Eastern Shore Community Services Board, said “none of our residences have two or more cases.”
A reporter’s call to the Parksley facility was met with a referral to Nick Nicoluzakis, legal counsel for Saber Healthcare, the company that operates Shore Health and Rehabilitation. Nicoluzakis requested questions in writing.
The organization’s response came just before press time Thursday from Chief Medical Officer Nancy A. Istenes. “The facility acts in the best interest of its residents to promote their health, safety, and welfare. We have worked closely with the Department of Health and continue to follow all necessary guidelines. We have established a personalized care plan for any affected resident and have routinely updated all residents and responsible parties regarding their condition and care. Due to HIPAA regulations, we cannot comment on any personal health information,” she said.
The Eastern Shore Post obtained copies of notices alleged to have been posted at Shore Health and Rehab, bearing a signature of “Lisa Nottingham, LNHA, LPN, Administrator for Shore Health.” One was dated May 4, notifying “Resident and Family Member/Sponsor/Guardian” of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.
A second similarly addressed notice reads in part, “Since we last notified you on May 4 of our first case we have experienced additional positive COVID-19 test.” It was not clear if the notice referred to one or more additional cases.
The notice was not on company letterhead. Copies were sent to Saber’s legal counsel for verification, but as of press time, no response beyond Istenes’ statement was received.
The source alleges the company hired a nurse who had left Heritage Hall and came to work for Shore Health and Rehabilitation within two weeks, the CDC-recommended quarantine period after exposure to COVID-19. Saber did not respond to a question about the allegation.
Employees were called, the worker said, and were told an employee of Shore Health and Rehabilitation had tested positive. Because of HIPPA regulations, they were not told which employee.
“This team has done an excellent job up until this point,” the source said. Then, “They just walked the coronavirus right into our building.”
The source employee expressed frustration because staff has worked hard to keep the coronavirus out and feels it was all for naught. “They weren’t afraid to put our lives in danger,” the source said.