New: Detroit nursing home shaken by 3 COVID-19 deaths

After complaints, Detroit facilities to get quick tests

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Updated, 1:05 p.m. 4/13/20 with a clarification from Villa Healthcare.

One staff member and two residents have died of COVID-19 at Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Detroit.

That’s according to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Michigan spokesman Kevin Lignell. He also told the Advance that SEIU filed complaints against the nursing home with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) because of employees describing hazardous working conditions at the facility.  

The complaints refer to the nursing home as “Ambassador, a Villa Home, as in Villa Healthcare, a Skokie, Ill.-based private, for-profit nursing home chain in Michigan.*

Villa Healthcare didn’t respond to requests for comment before the story’s publication. A spokesperson for Villa Healthcare since emailed the Advance that it doesn’t own, operate or manage any centers. Instead, Villa says it has consulting services agreements in place with the 34 skilled nursing facilities that it supports in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. According to nursinghomeratings.org, multiple organizations and individuals have ownership of the home.*

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As for its COVID-19 policies, the company has a notice posted on its website saying it’s taking safety precautions and uses infection prevention strategies. Villa Healthcare said that it also has implemented additional precautionary methods to minimize the potential exposure of their residents and team members.

In addition, Villa Healthcare said in a statement online: “Our reliance on factual data and scientific evidence allows us to implement changes aimed at minimizing the potential of exposure to COVID19 and planning for the care and treatment of any resident who may test positive for the virus. We thank our team members for their continued care and dedication to the patients in each Villa Center, and we thank the many family members, loved ones and friends for their patience and understanding in light of current visitation restrictions.”

However, complaints filed with MIOSHA obtained by the Advance claim some protocols aren’t being followed.

In one complaint, a Certified Nurses Aide (CNA), who is also a union steward for SEIU at the facility, said they had been working with a patient who later tested positive for COVID-19. But management did not inform them about the patient’s status.

Furthermore, the CNA said that they provided “complete care” for the patient, who requires help being fed, bathed, dressed, groomed, positioned and using the bathroom. After doing so on March 26, the CNA began having trouble breathing. That eventually led to the CNA going to the emergency room and being diagnosed with COVID-19.

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The CNA added that the nursing home hadn’t provided employees any instruction about what to do if a patient has COVID-19; nor are they providing protective equipment. The CNA said that the nursing home should have provided guidance and put protocols in place to keep employees safe.

In another complaint, a CNA disclosed that when they began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and tried to take time off to quarantine themselves, they were repeatedly asked by the director of nursing (DON) to come back to work because the nursing home was short-staffed.

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) also filed a complaint, adding that they never received any kind of training related to COVID-19 and that they weren’t instructed about what precautions to take against the disease. The LPN also said they were pressured by the DON to come into work after obtaining a doctor’s note even though they were experiencing symptoms like COVID-19.

Finally, one CNA said that because said that because the facility is short-staffed, they have to tend to more patients and that also makes it harder for them to flag residents with COVID-19 symptoms.

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) spokesman David Harns said that LARA is aware of SEIU’s claims with MIOSHA, but that he couldn’t provide any more details. 

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Andrea Acevedo, president of SEIU, also wrote a letter detailing conditions at Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. It was sent to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, city of Detroit Medical Director Dr. Nâjibah Rehman and Detroit Medical Center (DMC) Corporate Medical Director Epidemiologist Dr. Teena Chorpa.

The letter obtained by the Advance detailed dangerous situations reported at the nursing home, such as management not telling employees about the existence of positive COVID-19 tests and employees under observation for the disease.

The letter also states that facility violated two executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The first is Executive Order 2020-21, which requires a facility to increase cleansing and disinfection, social distancing and to adopt policies to prevent workers from entering a facility if they display respiratory symptoms or have had contact with a person who is known or suspected to have the COVID-19.

The union also claims the nursing home violated Executive Order 2020-36, which addresses when workers must quarantine themselves at home. 

In addition, the nursing home also failed to educate and train the staff on emergency procedures to address COVID-19 and had not implemented sick leave policies encouraging employees to quarantine themselves if needed.  

Within a few days of receiving the letter, Duggan announced a new policy to deploy 15-minute tests at every nursing home in the city of Detroit.

“We commend Mayor Duggan and the city of Detroit listening to the needs of nursing home workers and taking action quickly,” said Acevedo.

SEIU Healthcare Michigan represents 11,000 workers in home care, nursing homes, and hospitals across the state. As previously reported by the Advance, the union sent memos to all facilities it represents in late March, demanding employers take several measures to protect union employees, including:

  • Paid administrative leave for all workers that have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • All testing and treatment for COVID-19 paid by employers.
  • No repercussions be taken for employees notifying their employer if they believe they may have come into contact with COVID-19.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided by the employer at an employee’s request.

Acevedo added that the next step is to apply testing measures like the one put in place in Detroit across the state.

“We are asking the governor and elected officials to press state and county health departments to begin taking this seriously,” said Acevedo.