American Senior Communities releases COVID-19 information for nursing homes

(WTHR)
Published:
Updated:

The data from Indiana’s largest nursing home operator means you can now find COVID-19 cases and death data for more than 200 Indiana nursing homes at the 13News online search tool.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — For weeks, Indiana's largest owner of nursing homes and its management company have declined requests by 13News to publicly release the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in their long-term care facilities across the state.

Now, following growing pressure from Indiana media, frustrated families, angry staff and federal regulators, American Senior Communities and the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County have changed course, releasing detailed coronavirus data for each of their Indiana facilities.

"ASC and HHC are now making this information available on their websites so that family members and care partners have another means to access this data. Each facility maintains a dashboard on its webpage with comprehensive data along with important information about COVID-19 and clinical measures implemented to protect residents," ASC and HHC said in a joint news release sent to 13News.

According to newly-released data, 1,152 of American Senior Communities residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 246 of them have died as of May 18. ASC also said 367 employees have tested positive. Together, ASC and HHC operate 78 skilled nursing facilities and five assisted living facilities in Indiana, serving nearly 7,000 residents in those locations.

“The situation remains serious. We are deeply saddened whenever a resident or staff member becomes infected, and we grieve for each resident who has passed away,” ASC CEO Donna Kelsey is quoted as saying in the news release.

A look inside each nursing home

The aggregate data provides the most detailed glimpse to date about what is happening inside a large number of Indiana long-term care facilities, where COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on the state’s elderly. According to aggregate data released this week by the Indiana State Department of Health, nursing home residents account for at least 732 coronavirus deaths in Indiana – 45% of all COVID-19 related deaths reported by ISDH.

But the real value in the data released by ASC is that, for the first time, the public can see detailed coronavirus data for each of the company’s individual long term care facilities – specifically, how many residents and staff have tested positive for the virus and how many have died. Some facilities have been especially hard hit. Adding together data for both residents and staff, the ASC data shows:

  • Arbor Grove Village, Greensburg: 44 positive cases and 8 deaths
  • Harrison Terrace, Indianapolis: 63 cases and 13 deaths
  • Ben Hur Health & Rehab, Crawfordsville: 63 cases and 13 deaths
  • Brownsburg Meadows, Brownsburg: 81 cases and 17 deaths
  • Cardinal Nursing & Rehab, South Bend: 108 cases and 17 deaths
  • Bethlehem Woods, Fort Wayne: 84 cases and 23 deaths
  • Greenwood Meadows, Greenwood: 130 cases and 29 deaths
  • Rosegate Village, Indianapolis: 145 cases and 20 deaths
Eagle Valley Meadows in Indianapolis reports no deaths or cases from COVID-19. (WTHR)

Other American Senior Communities nursing homes – about two thirds of them – reported no positive cases of COVID-19 and no deaths caused by the virus. ASC and HHC say they have taken extensive measures to keep the coronavirus out of their facilities and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when it is detected. Whether a facility has no reported COVID-19 cases or dozens of them is crucial information the public needs to know, according to AARP Indiana.

“The biggest benefit of this information is transparency and making sure that families have the information they need,” said Sarah Waddle, director of AARP Indiana, which represents more than 800,000 seniors across the state. She said ASC releasing detailed data for each of its nursing homes sends a powerful message. “I think it sends a message to other facilities across the state that this isn’t about hiding information. We’re not trying to shame anyone. This is really just about putting information out there so families can make the best decisions for their loved ones.”

Company drastically reverses course

The decision to release detailed COVID-19 data for about 78 nursing homes did not come easily or fast. For weeks, 13 Investigates has been talking to angry families who said American Senior Communities told them nothing about the spread of the coronavirus inside area nursing homes.

“We need to know how many deaths are over there and how our family members are being taken care of,” pleaded a distraught Gloria Benefield, who last month told 13 Investigates that she could not reach staff at Greenwood Meadows to discuss rumors of coronavirus spreading quickly through the facility where her mother was a resident.

“I feel like they lied to us.”

Barbara Arteaga, whose father also lived at Greenwood Meadows, told 13 Investigates the same thing. She said ASC management told her of only “a reported case” of COVID-19. A week later, her father died from coronavirus complications. Only then did Arteaga learn from a 13News investigation that more than 100 residents at Greenwood Meadows had already tested positive for COVID-19 and more than a dozen other residents had already died.

“I feel like they lied to us,” Arteaga told 13News just before her father’s funeral. “My dad could be alive right now if they had only provided that information sooner so we could have taken him out of that place.”

Several employees at Greenwood Meadows told 13 Investigates that management told them not to discuss COVID-19 cases and deaths with anyone.

Daugh Hubbard died after contracting COVID-19 at Greenwood Meadows. (Barbara Arteaga)

While ASC and HHC repeatedly declined to release detailed COVID-19 data to 13News, Indiana’s governor and state health commissioner have taken the same approach. Despite the growing number of coronavirus cases and deaths inside Indiana long-term care facilities, both said they would only release statewide aggregate data. They said they believe nursing homes are abiding by state guidelines that require them to share COVID-19 data with families who have loved ones inside a specific facility.

Both 13News and AARP have received daily phone calls from families that say nursing homes are not following those guidelines.

"We know there are instances where people aren’t getting the information they need, and I think we’re really to a point where it’s not working," Waddle told 13 Investigates. "And there's one really easy way to clear all this up, and that's just make the information public."

Late last week, 13News reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to release detailed COVID-19 data for all long-term care facilities in the United States – putting additional pressure on ASC and other nursing home operators to release their COVID-19 numbers before the federal data is released later this month.

Now, four days later, American Senior Communities has done just that, providing access to data that it refused to disclose a week earlier.

New call for more transparency

The move by ASC and HHC shifts the focus to other nursing home operators that still have not fully released their coronavirus data. CarDon, which operates 19 nursing homes in the state, has posted some details about COVID-19 at its Indiana nursing homes, but the daily data updates often do not reflect the total number of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those who have died. CarDon has not responded to 13 Investigates’ requests for data involving all of its long-term care facilities in Indiana.

Long-term care provider Communicare told 13 Investigates it will not provide data for any of its 20 Indiana locations.

"We've actually decided to decline to make those numbers public. Having a lot of attention paid to those numbers is counterproductive to what we are doing," Communicare general counsel Fred Stratmann told 13News last week. "I think the numbers paint the industry in a bad light and creates panic and fear."

Waddle disagrees, and she is now appealing directly to the governor to require Indiana nursing home operators to be fully transparent. Tuesday afternoon, she sent a letter to Holcomb calling the release of data "essential."

"AARP Indiana urges the state to publicly release the names of long-term care facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents and staff on a daily basis," Waddle wrote.

In the meantime, 13 Investigates has been finding others ways to collect the data – both directly from individual nursing homes and from some county health departments that support transparency. 13News has now obtained COVID-19 information for more than 200 long-term care facilities across the state and has entered it into a searchable database. You can search by county, city or by the name of the nursing home. 13News is updating the data and adding more long-term care facilities to the search tool as we obtain it.