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Charles County residents push for transparency from nursing home

The Sagepoint Rehabilitation and Long Term Care center, in La Plata, Md., is one of several nursing homes in Charles County to report multiple cases of COVID-19.

LA PLATA, Md. — Some people are demanding more transparency from health officials regarding the well-being of residents in Charles County nursing homes.

On Friday, Dr. Howard Haft, executive director of the Maryland Primary Care Program at the Maryland Department of Health, revealed during a press conference that 90 residents and another 23 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at six Charles County nursing homes and senior living facilities.

Then, on Saturday, Mike Ricci, communication director for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, said the Charles County Department of Health has identified 101 cases of COVID-19 in county nursing homes and senior living facilities.

RELATED: 90 residents, 23 employees test positive for coronavirus in Charles Co. nursing homes

While the numbers provide some insight into how many people in Charles County nursing homes have been affected by the coronavirus, some locals are calling for even more specifics.

The number of affected residents and staff within specific Charles County nursing homes and senior living facilities has yet to be released.

"From our perspective, from the state, we're going to be aggregating some of the information across the county and across the state and report it in a responsible way," Haft said. "Right now, we don't have a responsible way to report that that compares kind of apples to apples across facilities."

Haft, a Charles County resident who was temporarily assigned to his duties by Maryland Deputy Secretary of Health Fran Phillips, said when the state gets that information it will happily report it.

However, in the absence of that data, there are questions as to the exact scope of a coronavirus outbreak at the Sagepoint Rehabilitation and Long Term Care center in La Plata.

Some people have posted on a popular local Facebook page, Charles County Matters, that some of their loved ones have died from coronavirus while in Sagepoint’s care.

Kamara David used to work as a geriatric nursing assistant at Sagepoint. She said she left her position at the end of March just after the facility reported its first resident to test positive for COVID-19.

She said in her talks with her old coworkers at Sagepoint, she has learned more people are getting sick and dying at the facility.  

"It's just been so much every day," she said. "I'm hearing of a new loss or somebody else that they found out is sick."

The latest data provided by the Maryland Healthcare Commission, dated October 2018, revealed that Sagepoint has 165 licensed beds. The same state data showed, as of April 2, that the average age of a resident in Sagepoint is 83. 

On Friday, Joyce Riggs, a spokesperson for Sagepoint, said the facility has recognized the need to be transparent to the community, within the guidelines of HIPAA, amidst the coronavirus crisis.

She said after the first resident at Sagepoint tested positive on March 30, the facility implemented a plan to cohort patients into positive and non-positive areas of the campus.

Sagepoint has also posted updates on its handling of the virus to its website.

"We worked tirelessly with all county, state, and local officials to make sure that we were following all of the guidelines and implementing all of the necessary procedures," Riggs said.

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However, David contends that in late March, personal protective equipment [PPE] was being withheld from staff at Sagepoint

"They were locking their PPE away from the staff and employees and telling them that they weren't symptomatic, so they didn't need any," she said.

WUSA9 has reached out to Sagepoint for a response to that allegation.

David said she decided to leave Sagepoint due to the alleged conduct of its management.

On Friday, she posted a video to Facebook expressing her frustration with the nursing home and its alleged actions during the coronavirus’ spread. The video has more than 3,000 views.

"They don't know what transparency [has] ever looked like," David said in the video.

However, some people have said they are happy with how their relatives have been treated by Sagepoint.

During Friday’s press conference, John Willis said the nursing home has done a good job of caring for his loved one.

"They have been very transparent, keeping us apprised of how things are going," he said. "We were notified immediately upon testing and once they got the test results, they notified us." 

It is unclear as to whether Willis’ loved one was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Riggs said Sagepoint has had access to "rapid testing" during the coronavirus’ spread.

As for the release of specific data pertaining to the number of cases of coronavirus at Sagepoint, Riggs said it is up to the Maryland Department of Health to report that information in a responsible way.

Data about coronavirus case numbers have been released in other parts of Maryland.

The Carroll County Health Department reported on its website, on April 17, that twenty-four people in the Pleasant View nursing home, in Mt. Airy, Maryland, have died from the coronavirus. 

The county’s health department also revealed that another 121 residents and staff have tested positive for the disease.

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