State evacuates 18 from Louisville senior community, sends med students to help one in Kuttawa where at least one resident died

Jean Massamore, 94, and granddaughter Lee Ann Teague. Massamore died at Teague’s home after a hospital wouldn’t admit her and a senior community refused to let her back in.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

First responders and the National Guard evacuated 18 residents from a senior living community in Louisville Thursday, the latest sign that nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities are the biggest immediate concern about the coronavirus in Kentucky.

“This is where the coronavirus wreaks havoc,” Gov. Andy Beshear said as he announced three more deaths in such facilities, bringing the death toll to at least 16.

He said four had died at Treyton Oak Towers, the 12-story apartment building where 18 were evacuated “to make sure that we had the care that they needed and also to protect other residents” and staff members, he said. The Louisville Courier Journal reported five residents there had died of covid-19.

Beshear thanked Norton Healthcare, which set aside a floor on one of its hospitals for the evacuees. He said 21 residents and eight staffers at Treyton Oak Towers have tested positive for the virus. State Health Commissioner Steven Stack said the facility “had exhausted every option.”

“We can’t do this solution for every facility,” Stack said. “We are working hard to find solutions that we can deliver for the entire commonwealth.” Beshear said his team is working on pre-planning for other mass transfers and will talk Friday about an “advisory task force” for long-term care.

Asked at his daily briefing what advice he would give other states, Beshear listed many actions he has taken and concluded, “Really start concentrating on your nursing homes.

The state’s other big worry appears to be the River’s Bend Retirement Community in Kuttawa in Lyon County, which has “reported 10 confirmed cases, including seven-assisted living residents and three staff members,” the Courier Journal reports. “Three tests from the skilled-nursing wing have come back inconclusive.”

Officials say one River’s Bend resident has died, but that doesn’t include one who died after the facility refused to let her return after she had gone to a hospital that wouldn’t admit her because her symptoms weren’t severe enough, her granddaughter told the Courier Journal’s Mandy McLaren.

Lee Ann Teague said Jean Massamore, 94, formerly of Dawson Springs, died at Teague’s home in Paris, Tenn., on Saturday, April 4.

“The family’s plight illustrates an increasingly urgent problem barreling down on assisted living facilities across Kentucky: what to do with ill residents not sick enough to remain in a hospital, but too much of a risk to live among other vulnerable elders,” McLaren writes.

The places they live are in a bind, too, said Betsy Johnson, president of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities and Kentucky Center for Assisted Living. McLaren writes: “Hospitals, in preparation for an expected surge of coronavirus cases, are releasing patients who don’t require extensive care — even if they’re suspected of having covid-19, Johnson said.”

Stack, who Beshear said is spending most of his time helping long-term-care facilities, said River’s Bend, the Lyon County Health Department and local officials sought the state’s help Tuesday afternoon, and the decision was made to send four medical-student volunteers to the facility. They are working 12-hour shifts and staying at a nearby state park, he said.

Stack’s voice cracked as he thanked the students and looked at an email from one. “These nursing homes get a bad rap too many times,” he said. “These teams love these residents.”

Overall, Kentucky’s nursing homes have the third highest number of serious deficiencies per home in the nation, according to ProPublica‘s analysis of three years of inspections almost a year ago. Neither River’s Bend nor Treyton Oak Towers had a serious deficiency, and each had eight total violations, a relatively low number, with no fines or payment suspensions, according to ProPublica’s list. The state was about average in suspensions of payments from Medicare and/or Medicaid.

“In Louisville, federal data show that most nursing homes have struggled with being prepared for, or dealing with, issues around infection,” Jared Bennett reported for Louisville’s WFPL last month. “Inspectors flagged deficiencies related to infection control at 38 of Jefferson County’s 45 federally regulated nursing homes in at least one inspection since 2017.”

The state says 104 residents and 48 staff members in 26 nursing homes have tested positive for the virus, but has declined to name the facilities, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, noting “The Northern Kentucky Health Department refused to release the names of nursing homes affected in its district even though at least one nursing home in Kenton County has confirmed cases independently.”

Johnson told the Courier Journal that nursing homes are “short on masks, gloves and gowns,” Bailey Loosemore reports. “And many homes don’t have the tools or the authority to test residents for covid-19 — including those who are coming from a hospital,” transfers that may be happening more frequently as hospitals free up beds in anticipation of covid-19 patients.

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