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State: Multiple southern Colorado nursing homes lacked infection precautions

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A KRDO NewsChannel 13 investigation reveals some southern Colorado nursing homes have failed to protect the vulnerable in our community amid the pandemic.

COVID-19 cases at Colorado's long term care facilities account for more than half of the deaths in the state.

State inspection reports reviewed by 13 Investigates found multiple Colorado Springs and Pueblo nursing homes lacked basic COVID-19 infection and prevention control plans.

In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid alerted nursing homes about a federal survey to ensure the nation's health care facilities were prepared to respond to the threat of COVID-19. The notice provided specific federal standards the nursing homes were expected to implement during the pandemic.

State inspectors went to multiple nursing homes in southern Colorado to complete the survey. Six of those nursing homes received violations related to infection control and prevention for COVID-19.

The cited nursing homes are:

  • Cedarwood Health Care Center
  • Medallion Post-Acute Rehabilitation
  • Sundance Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation
  • University Park Care Center
  • Life Care Center of Pueblo
  • Belmont Lodge Health Care Center

Among the most common violations at the facilities include:

  • Proper social distancing protocols not in place for residents
  • Practices that could lead to cross contamination of resident meals
  • Failure to properly wear masks
  • Lack of hand washing

At Cedarwood Health Care Center in Colorado Springs, an inspector found staff failed to wash their hands, even when coming into contact with quarantined patients. Inspectors also noted that Cedarwood staff failed to screen outside agencies for COVID-19 when they entered the facility. Annaliese Impink, a spokesperson for Cedarwood Health Care Center, classifies the violations as "low-level deficiencies" and said staff immediately implemented corrective action plans following the early April inspection report. Impink claims the state approved the April corrective action report.

Cedarwood is awaiting an additional inspection to finalize its COVID-19 compliance this week for additional violations inspectors found in May, according to facility representatives.

"Since the first CDC guidance was released on March 3 we have worked diligently to implement the guidance and protocols issued by the CDC and state and local health departments," Impink said. "We appreciate the continued support of the long-term care community and the agencies and associations that support us in our efforts."

Cedarwood Health Care Center

A spokesperson for El Paso County Public Health confirms one Cedarwood Health Care Center resident tested positive for COVID-19 in late April. Cedarwood Health Care representatives said on Thursday morning there are currently no residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In April, inspectors at Medallion Post-Acute Rehabilitation on Bijou Street in Colorado Springs found multiple new residents were not put in isolation for 14 days per federal guidelines. The inspection also revealed nurses failed to change gloves in between cleaning and resident care. Inspectors also noted that staff and residents were not wearing face masks or properly social distancing in common areas.

Mark Gardner, the nursing home director at Medallion Post-Acute Rehabilitation declined an on-camera interview. He said the infection control errors were corrected and inspectors came back in mid-May and found no violations.

Medallion Post-Acute Rehabilitation

"We continue to be squarely focused on these important infection control issues, and are grateful that Medallion currently has no COVID-19 positive residents or staff in the Facility," Gardner said in an email to KRDO.

Sundance Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation

The state found the staff at Sundance Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation failed to provide residents with masks. Inspectors also claim a mobile swamp cooler was improperly placed near the room of an isolated resident. Sundance Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation did not respond to KRDO's request for comment as of Thursday afternoon.

At University Park Care Center in Pueblo, the state reported more than a dozen staff, family members and vendors were allowed to enter the facility without washing their hands in March. A spokesperson for University Park Care Center said the administrator immediately submitted a correction plan for the violations and was cleared by the state. The nursing home also claims it posted signage with COVID-19 information on its doors.

The executive director of University Park Care Center, Rob Newman, said in a statement provided to KRDO that residents have always been the facilities' top priority. The nursing home director said as of May 27, one patient and staff member tested positive for the virus. The resident is currently isolated and receiving care at the facility. The staff member is at home recovering and will not return to work until the employee meets federal guidelines.

University Park Care Center

"Prior to these positive cases and continuing now, we have been following all CMS, CDC, and state and local health department guidelines concerning COVID-19," Newman said. "Our associates are being diligent on practicing proper hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment. Every associate is also screened when they arrive for work."

Life Care Center of Pueblo

State inspectors found nurses going in isolation rooms without personal protective equipment at the Lifecare Center of Pueblo. The violations also included not having isolation precautions in place for at-risk residents. Inspectors noted the facility also lacked proper isolation plans for resident meal time. Lifecare Center of Pueblo did not respond to our request for comment on the violations before our deadline.

Belmont Lodge Health Care Center

Belmont Lodge Health Care Center was cited in April for failing to administer medication and store it safely amid the pandemic. KRDO reached out to Belmont Lodge representatives but did not receive a response prior to our deadline.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said as of this week all nursing homes in the state have received a COVID-19 related inspection. Nursing home COVID-19 preparedness and response plans were not required by CDPHE before the pandemic. State nursing homes, however, were mandated to follow federal and state regulations related to infection control.

State officials created an isolation plan requirement under Public Health Order 20-20. All Colorado nursing homes were required to submit them to the state for approval on May 1.

"Infection control checks follow the same process as the traditional inspection. Once a citation is issued, the facility is required to develop and submit a plan of correction to the department," a CDPHE spokesperson said. "The department reviews the plan and approves it when the plan is acceptable. If the facility submits an unacceptable plan, the department works with the facility to improve the plan."

Inspectors do follow up with violating facilities by conducting a follow-up inspection to ensure the corrected plan is enacted, according to state regulators.

CDPHE confirms all southern Colorado facilities that were cited for infection control violations will be inspected after all the nursing homes submit approved corrective action plans.

If you have a story you'd like KRDO to investigate, please email Chelsea.Brentzel@krdo.com.

Coronavirus / Investigations / Local News / News

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.