Resident advocate urges state to name nursing homes with COVID-19 deaths

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box announced Tuesday that 162 of Indiana’s 630 coronarvirus deaths can be traced back to 74 of the state’s long-term care facilities.

But she won’t release the names of those sites, citing resident confidentiality.

The ombudsman for long-term Care in Indiana said those facility names should be revealed.

Lynn Clough directs an independent agency in state government dedicated to the protection of residents in Indiana’s long-term care residential facilities.

There are 551 nursing homes in Indiana with approximately 38,000 residents and those sites where the most senior Hoosiers live have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus.

Dr. Box said that there are 1568 confirmed coronavirus cases in 199 long-term care facilities across Indiana.

One out of every four reported coronavirus fatalities in the state claimed a resident of such a facility.

Clough said her staff has fielded phone calls this month from family members who complain nursing homes aren’t responding to questions about coronavirus and its proximity to their loved ones.

“Knowing that a facility, for example, has 12 positive cases at least lets you know what’s going on in that facility,” said Clough, “and the facility can hopefully try to share how they’re trying to mitigate the outbreak of that disease to other parts of that facility.”

Even though Dr. Box said she would not release the names of nursing homes where positive coronavirus cases and deaths have been reported in order to protect the confidentiality of the residents living there, Clough disagreed and maintains the names of the nursing homes can be released without revealing the identities of the residents.

“You can still share the information about the number of positive cases in a facility,” said Clough. “You don’t have to be giving names and addresses and identifying the positive cases. But families don’t understand what’s happening with the facilities. I think there is some education that needs to happen. They don’t understand the isolation and quarantine process and if they were more informed they might feel less fearful.”

Clough said that even though she is the state’s designated independent long-term care advocate focused on protecting resident s’ rights and care, no one from the governor’s office or ISDH has asked her for advice on the nursing care facility identification question.

This morning it was announced that four residents of The Stratford in Carmel died as a result of the COVID-19 virus and Executive Director Sam Carrillo issued a statement emphasizing the community’s commitment to transparency even while delivering bad news.

“Here at The Stratford we believe we have a responsibility to be straightforward as this is an unprecedented time for all of us and we want to make sure we are following  the guiding principles, people first always,” said Carrillo. “We want to alleviate the fears and people don’t understand, ‘Who has it? How is it coming? What are the symptoms? My mom and dad are there.’

“People want to have more information and we felt that in order to build the trust and after all of this is over, that trust needs to be there and people will remember whether we’re being transparent and we’re telling people as it is.

“I know as a company we want to be transparent and our hopes and our goal will be because especially this industry right now at this time is getting a lot of bad PR and I gotta tell you one thing being transparent and showing the truth is probably the best on our families.”

Many nursing home operators have refused comment when contacted for confirmation of coronavirus cases and deaths in their communities.

Ombudsman Clough said her staff, while working from home, shut out of long-term care facilities just as family members have been.

“We have not been able to get into the facilities since about the middle of March but the ombudsmen are still available to family members and to residents who have questions or need assistance.”

If you have concerns about the care of a loved one inside an Indiana long-term care facility, you can call the State Ombudsman at (800) 622-4484 or email at or visit the state’s website.

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