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Minnesota Health Dept. defends itself from accusations it caused deaths at Moorhead nursing home

(KVLY)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 6:33 PM CDT
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Minnesota’s health department is offering a public rebuke to a Moorhead nursing home, saying it’s disappointed with the facility.

The agency’s response comes as a result of a Valley News Live report on Tuesday. Eventide Senior Living Communities blamed the Minnesota Health Department for its high COVID-19 death count.

Yet on Friday, state health officials defended themselves from the accusation.

“Initially, we did not have the testing capacity at the state level to do that type of testing,” Kris Ehresmann, the health department’s director of infectious diseases, said. “To say that the state wasn't helpful to them is perhaps not accurate.”

Eventide revealed for the first time there were 15 deaths at its Moorhead location.

Ehresmann said Minnesota had state patrol drop off swabs to Eventide on Eighth and even had National Guard members fly in items by helicopter.

Eventide on Tuesday stated Minnesota's testing response lagged in comparison to North Dakota, causing most of its residents to die.

“They waited until they could get it for free and until it was coordinated by the state,” Ehresmann said. “And I think it's important to keep in mind that when we did work with them on testing. That we went to great lengths."

According to the health department, Eventide could’ve arranged testing on its own as opposed to waiting for the state.

The level of state support Eventide requested was reportedly not sustainable.

“We are here to provide assistance as needed, but ultimately to hold the facilities responsible," Lindsey Krueger of the Minnesota Health Department said.

Krueger is the director for the Office of Health Facility Complaints and the program manager for the Home Care and Assisted Living Program.

An inspection done by her office on April 8 and 10 at Eventide found it wasn’t in full compliance with the new federal guidelines.

Residents weren’t social distancing and they were still eating at communal dining halls, according to the report. Both issues were later corrected.

“They have that responsibility to protect their residents, knowing that we have been out to the facility, and found that they were not practicing infection control properly,” Krueger said.

Eventide didn’t make anyone available to speak on camera for this story.

In a statement, the long-term care facility said it had a unique experience with its North Dakota facilities, where the state did early testing with all of its North Dakota residents currently being negative for COVID-19.

Eventide added that it was frustrating not getting tests sooner for its Minnesota facilities.

Below is a full copy of Eventide’s statement:

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While we acknowledge Minnesota Department of Health’s perspective on this issue, we had the unique experience of seeing what was working in our North Dakota facilities while still waiting for testing in Minnesota. We experienced early testing in North Dakota and at this time, our residents in that state are all negative for COVID-19. This demonstrated to us that early, routine widespread testing was necessary and we were frustrated in not getting it sooner in Minnesota. We continue to be grateful for all of the support we receive from North Dakota and Minnesota. We never declined any testing and were in the process of finding another resource for testing when MDH promised widespread testing was coming.

In early April when requirements were changing every day, if not more often, MDH identified where we could improve in our processes and we did so immediately. Eventide will always advocate on behalf of our residents and their needs. We are grateful to now have testing in both Minnesota and North Dakota to enable us to take the best care of our residents.

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