FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Records obtained by Valley News Live shows a nursing home that was hit the hardest in North Dakota by COVID-19 had issues before the pandemic.
Thirty-three out of the 45 deaths in the state have happened inside these facilities, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
Federal inspectors gave warning signs that some North Dakota long-term care facilities weren’t prepared for battling infectious diseases.
Villa Maria in Fargo leads the state in the number of COVID-19 cases at 52.
An inspection done in February of this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cited Villa Maria for not having an “infection and prevention control program in place.”
According to the report, an insulin pen fell into a garbage can and the nurse didn’t sanitize the pen.
Villa Maria has been cited each year since 2016 for infection control problems.
Another nursing home with a similar issue this year was Valley Senior Living on Columbia in Grand Forks. That nursing home has 11 cases of COVID-19.
According to a report, a staff member was feeding two residents their evening meals. The nurse wiped “nose secretions” for one resident, and instead of removing her gloves, continued to feed them.
Federal inspectors have found inflection-control related problems at Valley Senior Living since 2016.
Both nursing homes did not make anyone available for an on-camera interview. However, they provided statements, which mentioned that the issues were corrected.
Shelley Peterson is president of the North Dakota Long-Term Care Association. She said that Villa Maria has 11 residents that have recovered, and that doesn't often get reported.
“From the beginning, it’s been due diligence and vigilance for watching the virus,” Peterson said.
Peterson said North Dakota has one of the oldest populations in the country of people staying at nursing homes.
In terms of how COVID-19 got into a facility, she said it may have to do with the new American population.
“What's unique about Fargo, and that's different about the rest of the state, is that they have a great new American population and sometimes we see them living in larger households. And more people, that's greater risks for exposure,” Peterson said.
In statements from both nursing homes, they said they’re following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and NDDoH guidelines, which includes restricting visitors. A copy of their full statements could be found below.
In Minnesota, 608 out of the 748 deaths have been at long-term care facilities.
Peterson of the North Dakota Long-Term Care Association credited North Dakota for being aggressive with testing at these facilities for the low number of deaths.
Villa Maria's statement:
We are reporting any positive cases to the ND Dept. of Health who is posting this information each day on its website. We continue to follow the guidance from the CDC, CMS and the ND Department of Health which has included testing of all residents and employees at Villa Maria to identify any symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. On April 29, a Covid-19 Focused Survey at was conducted at Villa Maria to determine its “compliance with Federal requirements related to implementing proper infection control prevention and control practices to prevent the development and transmission of COVID-19.” No deficiencies were cited.
We want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our residents and employees in our facility. We are in very close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps at this time. Our staff and residents are following the recommended preventative actions. We have restricted visitors from entering our facility and cancelled all group activities within the building until the virus has been eradicated.
Valley Senior Living's statement:
At all Valley Senior Living locations we are following recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the North Dakota Department of Health. On March 13 we restricted visitation and began our employee screening process. Employee screening is completed at the beginning and end of all shifts. This includes a temperature check, COVID-19 related symptom questions, contact questions to include if an employee has had close contact with suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. When an employee does not pass the employee screening they are removed from the schedule and paid 100% for their scheduled shifts. We have dedicated resources to internal contact tracing and work closely with our employees to eliminate the chance of household contact exposure and the potential for asymptomatic carriers to continue to care for residents and work in close contact with other employees. All group activities have been cancelled and we have ended communal dining. All residents are monitored for the onset or respiratory illness twice per day. All staff are wearing proper personal protective equipment to include face masks, eye protection and face shields. All residents are wearing cloth face masks during direct care interactions.
In conjunction with the North Dakota Department of Health we held the first mass testing of all residents and employees on April 26 and 27. Since that testing we have conducted targeted testing of residents and employees in areas where identified positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed. We are preparing for our second mass testing of all residents and employees next week. We are thankful to have the opportunity to continue to test our residents and employees as this will allow for identification of the asymptomatic carriers and allow for isolation of those residents to the COVID-19 Care Area and for employees to be removed from schedules until they have recovered.