At least three Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing residents were taken to the hospital last week just days after the facility reopened despite concerns from local officials following a deadly COVID-19 outbreak.
Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told reporters in a news conference on Thursday, April 2 that the North Water Avenue facility had been cleared to begin accepting patients back who had tested negative for the virus and were medically appropriate to return as well as those who met the definition of recovered.
“We’ve insured that they have disinfected and decontaminated the facility based on (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations and we are in the process of a controlled back transport of patients into that facility,” Piercey said. “We will not be putting any patients in active infection or any who are an infectious risk back into the facility until they are completely clear of their infection.”
In addition to the cleaning, state facility surveyors completed an unannounced inspection with “no concerning findings,” according to a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health who added the department has provided “extensive consultation to the facility” to ensure they have a “clear and appropriate plan for patient care and infection control.”
Overnight Friday, at least three residents were taken from the facility by Sumner County Emergency Medical Services to Sumner Regional Medical Center, according to incident reports obtained from the county through an open records request. Sick/general weakness was listed as the problem in two of the cases while the other was classified as heart problems.
Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt said Thursday that the state department of health’s decision to allow residents to return to the facility less than a week after the outbreak “doesn’t seem like a good common-sense approach to protecting the public.”
At least 74 residents and 33 staff members at the facility tested positive for COVID-19 last month, according to state and local officials. So far, 11 residents have died.
“I don’t feel good about the possibility of them getting infected again because they are the population that is most vulnerable to this,” Holt said. “It looks like there could be another facility they could go to that wouldn’t be compromised.
“We don’t need to roll the dice and gamble on these people’s lives.”
Multiple local and county officials have also publicly expressed concerns about the facility reopening.
“I want to make sure this center is being observed and that they are doing things like they are supposed to be doing them,” Mayor Paige Brown said last week.
In a letter addressed to families, staff and the community April 2, the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing outlined a 72-hour comprehensive cleaning and disinfecting of all touch surfaces that was performed by BELFOR Property Restoration. The facility’s environmental services team was also said to be performing routine and special project cleaning practices “to ensure that proper cleaning and disinfecting processes are continued.”
A Tennessee Department of Health spokesperson referred all questions Monday regarding the most recent hospitalizations to the administration of the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing.
When contacted by the Gallatin News, Mark Freidman, principal and co-founder of the facility’s parent company CareRite Centers, replied with a cell phone video of Piercy’s comments during a press conference that afternoon.
“As we continue to monitor that situation and start to transition those efforts back to the facility, I do want to reassure you that we are continuing to work closely with them,” Piercy said Monday. “We had multiple folks in their facility late (Sunday) night and we continue to find no deficient practices and find their response to be perfectly adequate.”
Friedman sent a second email later that night with a video clip of Vice President Mike Pence talking about praying for healthcare workers.
“Look what our amazing, dedicated and wonderful staff and healthcare teams go through day in day out 24/7,” Friedman wrote. “We support them to no end and always will, no matter how much the media negates these heroes. This should be a focus of the news for this unfortunate virus, that our country (and world) is going through.”