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AARP pushes state to release nursing home COVID-19 info after Call 6 questions state's transparency

10,000 deaths: Ravaged nursing homes plead for more testing
Posted at 1:23 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 19:15:10-04

INDIANAPOLIS — AARP Indiana has written a letter to Governor Eric Holcomb requesting the state release more detailed information on where nursing home residents are dying from COVID-19 and where the outbreaks are happening after Call 6 Investigates questioned the state's transparency.

“It is clear that more must be done to inform residents, families, and the public about COVID-19 cases and deaths in facilities,” read the letter dated May 19. “This is a step toward much-needed transparency. But it is clear that more must be done to inform residents, families, and the public about COVID-19 cases and deaths in facilities.”

AARP Indiana’s letter comes after numerous stories from Call 6 Investigates raising questions about the state’s reluctance to release nursing home death and case information broken down by facility, especially given they’re largely funded by tax dollars through Medicaid and Medicare.

“You have stated many times during your briefings that Indiana must stay ahead of COVID-19, and there is a constant need to reexamine and adjust Indiana’s public health policies due to the rapidly changing landscape,” said Sarah Waddle, AARP Indiana director in her letter to the Governor. “AARP Indiana believes the time has come to make one of those adjustments.”

AARP Indiana is urging the state to publicly release the names of long-term care facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents and staff on a daily basis.

“During the current public health crisis, this information is essential to protect residents in facilities and for families to make safe and informed choices about where their loved ones will receive care,” said Waddle. “These choices include which rehab facility a hospital will discharge a person to, which assisted living facility is safest to move into, or if a family opts to bring a loved one home for care. Transparency is also critical for people to know what is happening in their communities and have trust in their leaders.”

Some long term care providers have started releasing COVID-19 information on their own including American Senior Communities, Otterbein Senior Life, the Hearth at Stones Crossing in Greenwood, and Trilogy Health Services.

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“As this letter began by applauding your commitment to transparency, we want to end by emphasizing our sincere appreciation for your ongoing actions to remain transparent in your communications and your continued collaboration,” read AARP Indiana’s letter. “This open communication is paramount to Indiana’s families with loved ones residing or working in long-term care facilities.”

Read the full letter from AARP here.

RTV6 reached out to the Governor and Indiana State Department of Health for comment.

The following statement was issued by the Joint Information Center:

"As Dr. Box has said previously, ISDH is providing aggregate data for long-term care facilities but has directed facilities to communicate their COVID status with residents and families. This allows for real-time updates between the facilities and the residents and their representatives."

Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney asked the following question at a news conference this month:

“We continue to hear from families who say the nursing home numbers they’re getting from facilities via email are not matching up with what the staff is telling them. Some are pushing for the state to post breakdowns by facility on the state’s dashboard. Meanwhile, more and more county health departments like Boone Johnson and Hendricks ARE releasing this information. What is your response to those families and now counties who say the public should see this information?”

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box responded to RTV6 with the following statement:

"The local public health officers and public health departments have the right to release the information if that's something they're comfortable with, and if they've worked with those institutions and they feel that's important for their community. I continue to support releasing aggregate data. And I continue to say we've posted on our website the availability for anyone who is having issues as a family member or a resident with getting this information, to reach out to us, and we will investigate that for them."

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.