DETROIT (WXYZ) — We know that our elderly are at high risk of catching COVID-19 and about one third of people who lost their lives to the virus in Michigan are nursing home residents.
But are those deaths preventable?
7 Action News started looking through inspections done at area nursing homes and found a disturbing pattern. All too often state inspectors have witnessed first-hand actions that increase the risk.
One example is found in a report on an inspection that happened on April 2nd at the Beaconshire Nursing Home in Detroit. The inspector found patients in, quote, “immediate jeopardy.”
The reason? Workers did not appear to know how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The inspector saw a worker eating lunch without a mask, gown, or gloves on while feeding a patient with suspected COVID-19. The worker then left that room and went to care for another.
The inspector said there were no appropriate signs on the doors of two patients with suspected COVID-19 - warning workers to take precautions.
“COVID has just identified and exacerbated a problem that has been known for years in these facilities,” said Heather Pagano, the Emergency Coordinator for Doctors Without Borders In Michigan.
She is part of a team working to educate nursing home workers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in metro Detroit. If you thought Doctors Without Borders usually responded to health emergencies in poorer countries you would be correct, but Pagano says what is happening right now in nursing homes in the United States is a crisis.
“We go where the needs are greatest and where there are vulnerable people who are left behind,” she said.
The Doctors Without Borders team is helping about 30 nursing homes in the area.
7 Action News reviewed all the COVID-19 inspection reports posted online by the state in Wayne County. They show it is needed.
Inspectors found 20 of the 72 nursing homes in the county not meeting requirements put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Five of them, such as Beaconshire, had violations so severe the state said residents were in immediate jeopardy.
Beaconshire did not respond to our requests for comment.
Pagano says the state responds to violations with punishments, but what is needed is a process for supporting training. Nursing aides and housekeepers are key in preventing the spread of infections in nursing homes. They also tend to make low wages. As a result, turnover is high.
Doctors Without Borders hopes that the work creates a model for supporting nursing homes with a positive result.
“When you have to introduce all these extra measures the staff have to put in place it is difficult. And often these are some of the most overworked and underpaid workers in the healthcare system,” Pagano said.
If you want to learn more about what inspections have found at facilities in your area, you can do so at https://spots_public.apps.lara.state.mi.us/#/publicsearch.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.
Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.