AUSTIN, Texas — If a nursing home patient in the Austin area has COVID-19, they're brought to Hearthstone Nursing and Rehab in Round Rock for isolation and treatment.
It's the only nursing home isolation facility the City of Austin has in place right now.
New state numbers show the virus is spreading inside local nursing homes, but the State doesn’t want people to know where.
"Walking around, they don't know whether the employee or the resident has the virus," said an employee at Windsor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Duval. "So, you're taking a chance every time you walk into that building."
A worker at Windsor, a nursing home in North Austin, is worried about how the facility is responding to possible coronavirus exposure.
The employee sent the KVUE Defenders an internal nurse note, where a worker wrote they are "assessing a resident for COVID-19 symptoms secondary to exposure" after the "resident had an interaction with a healthcare professional."
The employee asked KVUE not to share their name, worried they will lose their job by speaking out.
"They're not testing the staff, they're not testing the residents to rule out COVID-19, which is very scary," the employee said. "And with this pandemic that's going on, it's very scary not knowing who is positive and who is negative. So it's a big deal."
KVUE asked for a comment from the nursing home several times but never got a response.
Meanwhile, new data from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) shows that worker has reason to be concerned.
HHSC reports as of Monday, April 13, 198 nursing homes have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. That's 16% of all licensed nursing facilities in Texas. And there have been 70 coronavirus-related deaths.
As for the state's assisted living facilities, 52 have at least one confirmed case of the virus. That's more than 2% of all assisted living facilities in the state. And so far, there have been 24 deaths related to COVID-19.
What the state refuses to publish is which nursing homes have those coronavirus cases.
"What benefit is there to not give the names of the providers," said Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care. "Who does that benefit? It doesn't benefit the residents. It doesn't benefit the families. It only benefits the people who own and operate the facilities."
Families for Better Care is a national nursing home advocacy group based in Austin. His organization marks Texas as the "worst nursing home state" in the country, giving the state an F.
That's a grade drawn from data on nursing home staffing, deficiencies, inspections, complaints and more.
"Because we have people who live in nursing homes with underlying health conditions who are older folks, that just means there's a target on their back for this virus for them," Lee said.
And the employee from Windsor is also hoping for more transparency, for the sake of nursing home residents, families and workers like them.
"They have that running through their mind – if they've come in contact or are they carrying it? It's just a scary deal, you never know," the worker said.
A spokesperson for HHSC responded to our request for the name of those facilities but declined to provide the information.
"In compliance with patient, resident and employee personal health privacy laws, we cannot provide more detailed information," HHSC spokesperson Christine Mann said in an email.
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