A third patient with COVID-19 at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center died today, with the number of infected patients increasing to 34, and at least six staff members confirmed to have the virus.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey commented to BeaverCountian.com on the facility today, saying he’s been “ringing alarms” for oversight of poor-performing nursing homes for more than a year, which he thinks could have mitigated this crisis. Now he said he’s pressing the administration about how money will be spent to address it.
Brighton Rehab has been given an overall ranking of “below average” by Medicare.
“The residents and workers of the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center deserve far better than a cloak of secrecy, they deserve action,” he said in a statement.
The Brighton Township facility’s medical director said the novel coronavirus is extremely dangerous and taking a toll, but feels medications may be making a difference in patient treatment.
“This virus is petrifying,” Dr. David Thimons said in an interview with BeaverCountian.com today. “What are you supposed to do? You do the absolute best you can do. You follow the CDC and Department of Health guidelines to a T. We have called doctors in Washington (state) and in New York City, asking: ‘What are you seeing? What is working? What can we do? What would you do differently?’”
The novel coronavirus is called “novel” for a reason, Thimons said, it is something new infecting humanity for the very first time.
“We are trying to get as knowledgeable as we can, but most of what we are educating ourselves on it is very hard to read about in any evidence-based papers. We love these patients, and we love this staff, and we want to do what is right.”
Thimons said he read an interview published earlier today by BeaverCountian.com quoting COVID-19-positive staffer Joni Mortimer, a facility nursing assistant. Mortimer said she was asked to return to work while still symptomatic, spoke of never developing a fever used to screen staff, and described staffing shortages that she felt were putting residents of the facility at risk.
He said he was unable to comment on her situation directly, stressing he is in charge of health care for the facility and not its administration.
“Our rule is if you test positive you go home. No one like that should be working,” Thimons said. Checking staff for a fever, and directing them to disclose any symptoms they may be experiencing is the best that can be done to screen for the virus given the circumstances, he added.
“These nurses who say that Brighton is terrible, or that I am terrible, I am not mad at any of them,” Thimons said. “They’re scared. Sometimes bad things happen and it doesn’t always imply wrongdoing.
“This is a scary illness. You might walk into the building with no fever, and no cough, and pass the screening, but still be a carrier; still be someone who could spread the virus. It’s petrifying.”
But Thimons expressed some reason to be optimistic in the face of the outbreak.
“Those patients who have been treated now, some of them are on day four of treatment, are doing remarkably better,” he said.
“I feel good about the way they are responding … We are using some medications to try to treat this that we think may work against this illness. Most of those patients, not every one but most, are responding and getting better.”
Thimons declined to go into detail about specific medications that are being tried as part of treatment, but did say Brighton Rehab was able to obtain a significant quantity of it.
“The reality is (the patients) are getting (medications) and they are getting better,” he said. “Is it the medications or is it God, or I don’t know, but it may be the medications.”
Thimons had previously referenced the lack of scientific literature available about the effects of possible treatments, with physicians around the world relying largely on anecdotal evidence from others in the healthcare profession.
At the time of Thimons’ interview today, Brighton Rehab had experienced two patient deaths from COVID-19, both of whom had been hospice patients. The facility lost its third patient to the virus later in the day, Thimons confirmed, also a hospice patient.
“The sad truth is that this virus spares no county, state or nursing home,” Casey said.
“And while even the highest performing facilities are seeing cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff, I fear that the poorest performing facilities are most at risk, because they have failed to meet basic standards of quality for too long.
“For over a year, I have been ringing alarms about our country’s lowest-performing nursing homes. I demanded transparency, I pressed for more oversight dollars and I reached across the aisle to push for solutions to enhance quality in nursing homes across the board.
“It pains me that we are far past the point of working on solutions that could have mitigated this very crisis. This unprecedented emergency needs an immediate response, which is why I fought for and secured $100 million to prevent and react to situations just like the one at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center. I am demanding answers from this Administration about how and when those dollars will be spent.
“As coronavirus rips through our communities, nursing homes are ground zero, which is why I led 39 Democrats on a letter demanding answers on how this Administration would respond to help residents, states and nursing homes.”
BeaverCountian.com contributing editor Lori Boone contributed to this report.