Seniors recovering from COVID-19 reluctant to move back to nursing homes

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — Those who’ve been infected with COVID-19, were hospitalized and recovered, now worry about whether it’s safe to return to their nursing home — especially at a home with an ongoing outbreak.

Few thought 99-year-old Maria Ramos would survive her battle with COVID-19. She lived at Bria Nursing Home in Westmont.

After fracturing her hip April 17, she was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital where the next day she tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The hospital did a great job of bringing my grandma back from the brink of death to a state where they no longer want to be responsible for her, I feel, and they want her to go back to the nursing home,” Peter Ramos, Maria Ramos’ grandson, said.

The Ramos family is concerned about returning her to the nursing home that’s currently enduring an outbreak.

State records show 35 people at Bria in Westmont have tested positive. Seven have died.

 “My concern is even though we’re being told they’re capable of taking care of my grandma, I don’t see how they are,” Peter Ramos said.

“The hospitals are sending sick COVID patients back into nursing homes. those are vulnerable places. That’s not the place we want COVID patients going,” Carmella Moretti, who is concerned about COVID patient, said.

Bria officials insist their Westmont facility is more than capable of caring for Ramos.

The company’s CEO tells WGN: “This is exactly the type of recovery nursing homes are designed to provide. At Bria of Westmont, we have created a distinct COVID unit segregated from the remainder of our population and with its own distinct care team.”

“We need a halfway home where they can go and get better before they go back and can infect anybody else,” Moretti said.

Experts said the makeshift hospital set up at McCormick place isn’t designed for extended stays. For example, there are no patient bathing facilities.

We took the family’s concerns to the head of the state health department.  She notes Illinois has sent in so-called “strike teams” to help long term care facilities with everything from testing to disinfection and patient care.

“People should be able to return to their place of residence and they should feel staff is in place taking all precautions to protect them and limit the spread,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health, said.

 The Ramos family has been appealing, hoping the hospital will allow her to stay. But experts insist nursing homes can effectively care for current and former COVID-19 patients.

“I would say they can safely bring grandma back to the facility that’s been her home. They’ll take all the precautions they can to protect her.  If she’s going to be exposed to infection, it could happen anywhere. The chances of her catching it again are very small,” Dr. Rajeev Kumar, Society For Long-Term Care Medicine, said.

Despite their dispute over where grandma should go, as they said in a video chat facilitated by a nurse, the Ramos family is thankful for the care she’s received.

 Peter Ramos said she’s doing well and looks fabulous.

A hospital spokesperson said they work with families to explore all options for safe discharge.

But now, the Ramos family said the hospital turned down their request to keep her at Good Samaritan so she’s heading back to the nursing home.


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