'To blame us is unfair’: Nursing home administrator advises public to keep new data in perspective

Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 2:17 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New numbers from the state will offer the public a clearer picture of the impact COVID-19 is having on Louisiana’s nursing homes.

“Our ultimate goal has always been to make sure we have timely information to protect as many people as possible, especially those individuals who are most vulnerable,” said Governor John Bel Edwards.

Edwards says, by definition, this includes nursing home residents, either due to their age, pre-existing medical conditions or, often times, both.

LDH began sending out questionnaires to these facilities starting April 1.

“Every day, he got a reminder to update your numbers so, they gave that to you. They also pre-populated the numbers from the day before to help keep you on cue and on task,” explained Covenant Nursing Home Executive Director Margaret Hoffmann.

For a while, the state regularly released details of data collected but has not for the past month and a half.

“We started off trying to provide that level of information, it just became very difficult over time to do it,” Edwards said.

The LDH now plans to offer comprehensive reports starting Monday, May 16.

In a statement, Louisiana Nursing Home Association Executive Director Mark Berger applauded LDH:

“Throughout this pandemic, LNHA and its membership have encouraged Louisiana’s nursing facilities to be transparent with their residents and residents’ family members regarding a positive COVID-19 case in their facility. LNHA supports the decisions made by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) as our collective focus is the health and safety of nursing facility residents and staff.”

According the latest numbers from the state, 40-percent of Covid-related deaths in Louisiana are out of nursing homes. More than half of the state’s 279 facilities have had a case. In hard hit Orleans parish, John J. Hainkel, Jr. Home & Rehabilitation Center is the only place without one.

“Communal living makes this communicable disease happen. To blame a prison or to blame a nursing home, is not valid,” said Hoffmann.

Hoffmann cautions people about overgeneralizing. She says she’s a big proponent of transparency and continually communicates with residents and their families.

"I think the new reports are fine, if you understand what you’re looking at. The first line is the current census, not the census when the event began so, if you compare the census to the number of patients at the current time, based on the report, those numbers could be very skewed,” Hoffmann explained.

The data reveals one facility in Jefferson Parish with no Covid-related deaths-- West Jefferson Healthcare.

Data is still pending for several facilities around the state.

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