INDIANAPOLIS — As nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths are from long-term care facilities, a former nursing home worker is speaking up about why she says the virus is spreading in some facilities.
For weeks, Call 6 Investigates has been hearing concerns from families and workers about Ben Hur Health and Rehabilitation, a nursing home located in Crawfordsville.
Ben Hur is the only long-term care facility in Montgomery County thus far that’s had positive cases of COVID-19.
Their website currently shows 37 confirmed active cases among Ben Hur residents, 16 resident deaths and 13 confirmed cases among Ben Hur employees.
Dara Hendricks started working at Ben Hur in March 2019 as a front desk receptionist.
“I was the face when you walked in the door, and I was the voice when you called in,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks said when COVID-19 hit the facility, she was asked to move to the COVID positive unit called “the Cottage” to take staff and visitors’ temperatures.
Hendricks is not a nurse, and said she only had an N-95 mask as protection as residents coughed and sneezed on her.
"On a daily basis, I would have residents coming up to me and rubbing my back,” Hendricks said. “They're Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I would grab their hands and walk them back to their room. I was in full physical contact with the residents."
Hendricks said Ben Hur was short-staffed.
She said she also witnessed materials and workers going back and forth between the COVID-positive unit and other areas of Ben Hur.
“They were not changing clothes, not changing PPE," Hendricks said. “For example, the maintenance man would come into the Cottage and do the maintenance, and then go back into the main area.”
When Ben Hur moved her back to the reception area, Hendricks was surprised she didn’t have to quarantine herself.
“I was in the COVID unit for two-and-a-half weeks,” Hendricks said. “I left the COVID unit on a Friday, and on a Monday, I’m back at my desk in the main area. They were having everyone in the COVID unit come to the main area to get their temperatures taken, and then they’re going right back to the Cottage.”
Hendricks said when the facility tried to move her to housekeeping to wipe down contaminated surfaces, she quit on May 12 out of concern for her safety.
“I just couldn’t do it,” Hendricks said. “I’m scared.”
While RTV6 talked with Hendricks, she revealed she’s been dealing with a sore throat and fever.
“I’m hoping it’s just a cold,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks texted RTV6 on Friday night and said the health department notified her she’s COVID-19 positive.
The former Ben Hur worker says she’s more concerned about her former co-workers and residents still living there.
“I would not leave my family in there, especially if they're negative," Hendricks said.
Sixteen nursing home residents at Ben Hur have died from COVID-19, including Carol Bowles, who was 73.
Amy Hurt is Bowles' sister-in-law.
"The concern from the very beginning was just the lack of appropriate staffing, lack of appropriate care being provided to the residents there," Amy Hurt said.
Hurt’s mother-in-law Edith, 92, is still living at Ben Hur and tested positive for COVID-19.
"I know when Edith and my sister-in-law tested positive, they basically boxed their things out of the room to move them to different rooms and they set these things in the dining room and left them sitting there,” Hurt said. “Other patients would come and sit all around it and eat. I just can’t get my head around it."
Both Hurt and Hendricks said they’re speaking out because they’re hoping to save the lives of others and prompt changes at the facility.
Call 6 Investigates compiled concerns from families and workers and sent those to American Senior Communities which operates Ben Hur.
In a statement to RTV6, ASC said the Indiana State Department of Health found no deficiencies at Ben Hur.
As long-term care facilities nationwide continue to feel the devastating impact of COVID-19, Ben Hur Health and Rehabilitation’s are focused on the health and safety of residents and employees.
The situation remains serious. We are deeply saddened whenever a resident or staff member becomes infected, and we grieve for each resident who has passed away. As residents begin to recover, Ben Hur remains steadfast in protecting and continuing to serve them.
Given the unprecedented critical needs of residents, Ben Hur implemented best practices for clinical care and infection control, conducting comprehensive testing and providing daily, proactive communication to residents, their designated representatives and employees.
It would be inaccurate to report that Ben Hur is staffed by agency staffers only. While there is some use of agency staff currently, approximately 85% of the staff are employed by Ben Hur.
Ben Hur also remains in close contact with local, state and federal health authorities, following their guidance, mandates regarding infection control.
Given Ben Hur’s COVID-19 positive status, surveyors from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) are visiting the facility frequently. In addition to these regular visits, ISDH investigated the claims mentioned in your inquiry and found no deficiencies in Ben Hur’s processes. Additionally, on May 27, an ISDH surveyor conducted an infection control focused survey and again, found Ben Hur to be deficiency-free.
We are very sensitive to the needs of resident family members and understand that connecting our residents with their loved ones is incredibly important. During this temporary period of visitor restriction mandated by state authorities, we are offering access to communication devices and extra support to families desiring a visit with their loved ones through alternative methods such as telephone, email, text, video chat or social media.
From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ben Hur Health and Rehabilitation has sought to be ahead of the curve, implementing safety and infection control procedures prior to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and ISDH and continues to go beyond CDC and ISDH recommendations for clinical care:
- Testing 100% of all residents.
- Restricting all visitors.
- Retesting residents who were COVID-19 positive to ensure proper care.
- Screening each resident for illness daily.
- Screening and taking the temperature of all staff, clinical partners and vendors entering the facility.
- Requiring all staff to wear PPE at all times.
- Cancellation of large group activities.
- Exercising best practices for infection control.
- Quarantining and cohorting residents and staff who are COVID-19 positive.
Long term care communities conducting extensive testing may report higher numbers of COVID-19 positive cases than other communities that do not prioritize testing or have access to tests.”
You can see the full list of nursing home COVID-19 data compiled by the RTV6 team in the document below. This list will be continuously updated as new numbers are provided.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If your family's nursing home is not providing the information at your request, you can report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call 6 Investigates is also tracking nursing home cases in Indiana, and we want to continue to add to that list.
If you’re concerned about a loved one in a nursing home facility, or your family member died because of COVID-19 at a long term care facility, you can contact email@example.com.