As the coronavirus was spreading across South Carolina, at least two dozen nursing homes and care facilities failed to adequately protect residents from the disease, exposing many to dangerous or unsanitary conditions, according to complaints filed with state regulators. In many cases, staff knew about problems, but tried to cover them up for fear of retribution from their employers. In other cases, the homes refused to test residents for the virus or provide adequate equipment to protect staff and residents, the complaints claim.
The reports, however, clearly show that nursing home staff members and residents’ loved ones were upset about the level of care at more than two dozen facilities. Their concerns provide new insight about nursing home responses to COVID-19. Data show that nursing home residents make up 40% of the state’s total coronavirus-related deaths, despite representing only 12% of people who had tested positive as of May 27. South Carolina has 194 nursing homes. Among the most chilling complaints was a plea from a staff member at a Pee Dee nursing home.
“We, the staff are scared for ourselves and our residents, but we are scared to stand up because we will lose our job,” according to the complaint.
One of the complaints to DHEC involving the Sandpiper Rehab and Nursing center in Mount Pleasant, written by a staff member, said residents were in danger because other staffers were not following rules intended to protect people in their care.
“The residents in this facility are in immediate danger as staff are not following isolation precautions as directed for COVID 19,’’ the complaint reads, noting that the facility should be shut down. “Based on what I saw for my two shifts, the patients in inpatient rehab would most likely be safer at home with family members.’’
The complaint said DHEC should investigate whether records were falsified at the facility, although details were not provided in the complaint.
Magnolia Manor Inman is owned and operated by Fundamental Long Term Care Holdings, LLC. The chain has a history of problems, violations, and deficiencies. The Fundamental facility drew three separate complaints from March 24 to April 18.
The March 24 complaint said the home’s about 170 residents were in danger from Magnolia’s unsuccessful efforts to deal with COVID-19. The complaint said the nursing home’s use of one lobby area to bring in food and to carry out soiled laundry and trash was a serious concern. The complaint appeared to come from a staff member at Magnolia, who wrote, “I am greatly concerned that food deliveries are next to soiled linens at any given time, and that additional staff, from outside the dietary department, in particular, is called upon to roll food deliveries through the building.
“Despite COVID-19 concerns, this is obviously poor judgment and is placing more than 170 residents at great personal risk.’’
An April 18 report against Magnolia Manor Inman said clients were crying and upset after Magnolia abruptly moved them from their rooms into a common area, with no bathroom or private areas to change. Some residents who are unsteady on their feet were forced to push other residents in wheelchairs, the complaint read. The complaint said the air did not circulate well and “clients are in an unsafe environment with no staff.’’
Reached last week, Magnolia Manor administrator Dave Pearson said he could not comment on the complaint. He said the home’s nursing director had contracted the coronavirus.
DHEC records current as of May 28 show that at least 51 residents of Magnolia Manor have tested positive for the virus and three have died, but there are indications that could increase. Pearson said two rounds of mass testing were conducted between May 11 and May 22. A sister facility, Magnolia Manor-Greenwood has over 60 cases as well.