WASHINGTON — Family members of relatives who were previously cared for at a Carroll County nursing home have concerns about how it is handling the spread of coronavirus.
Twenty-four people have died from COVID-19, at the Pleasant View Nursing Home, in Mt. Airy, Maryland, according to the Carroll County Health Department. Another 121 residents and staff have tested positive for the virus.
One of those residents is 70-year-old Paul Mantheiy. His son, Rick, said his father has been in the hospital for three weeks.
"He's on two liters of oxygen," he said. "They basically consider him non-verbal, because he's not speaking at all."
The Mantheiys said they recently got a letter from Pleasant View nursing home describing what the facility is currently doing to keep its residents safe.
The letter, which is dated April 10, says Pleasant View directed its staff to bring a clean set of clothes everyday for them to change in to as they leave the building. The nursing home said the measure was meant to prevent community spread of the coronavirus.
The letter also says Pleasant View is "cohorting" positive- and negative-tested staff to care for positive- and negative-tested residents respectively.
The Mantheiys still say they have concerns.
The nursing home letter said that staff must use PPE while in close contact with patients, but then it goes on to say the following:
"Guidance suggests that gowns are most important when staff are in direct contact with a resident (ADLs, care), and are not required when passing out food or medication."
That appears to contradict a recent Maryland Department of Health directive that orders nursing home personnel to wear personal protective equipment at all times. The order, dated April 5, says all personnel who are in close contact with residents of nursing homes shall wear personal protective equipment, including face mask, appropriate eye protection, gloves and gown.
"You don't get much closer than when you're handing (out) medicine," Mantheiy said. "Especially when you're dealing with people with dementia."
A spokesperson for Pleasant View Nursing Home said the guidance it received was from an April 9 directive from the Maryland Department of Health regarding the use of gowns in long-term care settings and facilities.
The spokesperson added that at Pleasant View, all direct care staff including medication aides are wearing full PPE, including gowns. Dietary staff are also wearing plastic gowns and gloves and are not interacting with residents. The spokesperson said they are only working from the facility's kitchen.
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The Manthieys said they were also concerned when they read that Pleasant View was using a private laboratory for testing.
The Maryland Department of Health recently suggested nursing homes send test specimens to a state lab if a coronavirus outbreak was suspected on their premises, not a private lab that would require mailing.
"Every nursing home, every assisted living facility that begins to suspect that they may have an outbreak, they may have a symptomatic person, do not use one of the labs that requires mail-order specimens," said Fran Phillips, the deputy secretary for public health services in Maryland.
A Pleasant View spokesperson told WUSA9 the facility is not relying on a mail order system to transfer its specimen. The spokesperson said the nursing home is instead using a same day delivery system it claims is turning around results faster than the state lab.
Maggie Kunz, health planner for the Carroll County Health Department, added their department believed Phillips' recommendation specifically pertained to whether a nursing home facility suspected it was experiencing an initial case of COVID-19 not subsequent cases.
"Facilities who want to do additional testing can use private labs," Kunz said. "The State laboratory has a limited capacity. Locally, we are only using the state labs for specific situations such as outbreak investigations, in consultation with Maryland Department of Health epidemiologists. Also, I believe since April 3rd, some private labs have worked through backlogs and have a shorter turn-around time for test results."
Either way, the Mantheiys said Paul Mantheiy will not be returning to the Pleasant View nursing home.
"I keep thinking about the residents that are still in that building's halls," said daughter-in-law Ashley Mantheiy.
The Pleasant View letter also says some residents at the nursing home with the coronavirus are currently getting better.