Union, Resident's Family Member Question Nursing Home Transparency

One union said some of its members who work in nursing homes have quit over the lack of coronavirus information

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Newly-released information from the state of Illinois shows coronavirus is hitting nursing homes hard. Yet family members of residents and a union representing nursing home workers told NBC 5 the facilities are slow to provide information.

Mae Whiteside said her sister, Felicia, is a resident of Carlton on the Lake on Chicago's North Side.

Whiteside said she previously heard about two positive COVID-19 cases at the facility in a letter from the facility dated April 1. But according to state data, there are now twenty COVID-19 cases and three deaths at Carlton.

“I would have liked to have known that there’s 20 cases, three deaths,” Whiteside said.  "Any family member in my position would have gotten some way to try to get them home.”

Whiteside said she hopes to bring Felicia home, at least on a short-term basis, as soon as she lines up the vendors to set up a medical bed and other equipment for her sister.

Etan Bleichman, regional director of operations at The Carlton, said the facility has been working with, and following the guidance of the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Until now, the facility has provided all of the required notices to our residents, their families, and our staff in accordance with the guidelines set forth,” Bleichman said.  “Just yesterday afternoon, the State announced new guidelines in informing residents and their loved ones regarding COVID cases in long term care facilities, of which The Carlton will follow as well.”

Meanwhile, a union representing nursing home workers in Illinois said its members are quitting their jobs over a lack of coronavirus information from the facilities.

“They need to know who has it so they can take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and the other residents, but also that they can protect their families,” said SEIU Healthcare director of nursing homes, Shaba Andrich.

The federal government is also pushing for nursing homes to be more transparent. In addition to requiring nursing homes to provide COVID-19 related information to state and local governments, the facilities are now required to report their case information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s important that patients and their families have the information that they need and they need to understand what’s going on in the nursing home,” said CMS administrator Seema Veera.

A spokesperson for Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker said the state agrees with the increased notification requirements.

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