ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Alabama Department of Public Health released a survey report citing a lack of testing at the facility stating nearly 140 COVID-19 cases, including at least four deaths, were reported at a Robertsdale nursing home and rehabilitation facility between December and February.
According to a report issued Friday by ADPH, a survey was conducted at Robertsdale Rehabilitation and HealthCare Services over a two-week period from Jan. 26 to Feb. 5, the facility “failed to consistently conduct outbreak testing for 13 of 16 sampled staff, when it was indicated. … This deficient practice placed all residents currently residing in the facility in immediate jeopardy as it was likely to cause serious injury, harm, impairment or death.”
The report states that after identifying a single new case of COVID-19 infection in any staff or residents, all staff and residents should be tested, and all staff and residents that tested negative should be retested every three to seven days until testing identified no new cases of COVID-19 infection among staff or residents for a period of at least 14 days since the most recent positive result.
The facility has had four COVID-19 outbreaks since September 2020, according to the report. The most recent outbreak began Dec. 1 and continued until Feb. 8, stating that a total of 138 cases (74 residents and 64 staff) had been reported during that time.
“…the facility has not gone 14 days without any new confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents and/or staff,” during that time, according to the report.
The report states the facility’s director of nursing and infection preventionist acknowledged that while she was aware of the lack of testing, she had not developed a concrete plan of resolution to address the lack of COVID-19 testing.
When asked how residents could become exposed to the COVID-19 when they are not leaving the facility, according to the report, the director of nursing replied it would have to be the staff. When asked what the potential harm could be to residents if staff are not tested according to outbreak testing guidelines, the director of nursing replied there could be an increased risk of transmission.
According to the report, the director of nursing stated that four residents have died at the facility after testing positive for COVID-19.
In the report, the facility’s interim administrator, who has served in that capacity since Dec. 1, stated that he was unaware that testing was not being done according to testing guidelines while acknowledging that ultimately, it was his responsibility to ensure proper testing was being conducted.
On Feb. 8, according to the report, the facility submitted an acceptable removal plan which stated that as of Feb. 1, the administrator and director of nursing/infection preventionist had been trained in the process of monitoring staff and testing by the director of quality assurance and that all staff would be educated on the testing requirements by Feb. 8.
After reviewing the facility’s information provided in their removal plan and verifying the immediate actions had been implemented, the scope/severity level of the complaint was lowered “to allow the facility time to monitor and/or reverse their corrective actions as necessary to achieve substantial compliance.”
Robertsdale Rehabilitation and HealthCare Services is one of 10 facilities owned by Ball HealthCare Services based in Mobile.
According to a statement issued Friday, the issue was the result of temporary staffing problems.
“We take all public health requirements seriously,” according to the statement issued Friday through Direct Communications out of Birmingham. “We immediately corrected the issue and are taking all appropriate action to ensure we continue to meet all requirements.
According to the statement, as of Friday, there are no residents or employees who are positive for the virus.
“At Robertsdale Rehabilitation & HealthCare Center, our top priority is the safety of our residents and employees,” according to the statement. “Throughout this pandemic, our team of 132 employees worked diligently and successfully to reduce the risk of COVID infections within the facility.”
But after the holiday season, the facility experienced a rise in cases among employees and residents “that mirrored the larger surge that occurred throughout our state,” according to the statement.
“Our hearts go out to all of those who have been affected by the virus. The infections and the required quarantine periods created temporary staffing challenges that created significant issues for the employees working to provide care during that time. But we want to assure our residents and their families that we have taken all necessary steps to address those issues, and we are working closely with public health officials to make sure we are adhering to all state and federal guidelines.”
In a statement issued through the Alabama Nursing Home Association in January, Ball HealthCare Services said Robertsdale Rehabilitation & HealthCare Center restricted visitation and was following “appropriate screening and testing protocols in accordance with the guidelines from the CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medical Services (CMS).” The facility was participating in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program through a partnership with CVS Pharmacy.
“We are committed to making sure that all COVID protocols and other standards will be maintained in the future as they were in the past,” according to the statement issued on Friday.