Daughter feels letdown by nursing home during mother’s battle with COVID-19

ByAmanda Aguilar|September 9, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT - Updated September 10 at 1:13 PM

MIDWAY, Ga. (WTOC) - COVID-19 has hit several long-term care facilities in Georgia. A nursing home in Liberty County has had 72 positive cases among residents, which has resulted in 10 deaths.

One woman is now raising concerns in how the facility is handling cases, after her mother died from the virus. The woman said she didn’t find out her mother was sick until just a few days before she died.

Magnolia Manor has nine campuses around southern Georgia. The Midway facility saw its first COVID-19 case on July 6. However, the CEO said the facility started taking extra precautions and following public health guidelines to keep residents and employees safe once the pandemic hit in March.

Shanda Harris questions if they’re doing enough. Harris is still trying to wrap her head around her mom’s death.

Mary Ann Singleton was 72 years old when she passed away on Aug. 11 at Magnolia Manor of Midway due to COVID-19.

Harris said her mom had dementia and other underlying health conditions, so she stayed involved with her mom’s care at the facility. As soon as the pandemic hit, it got difficult, as visitation wasn’t allowed.

“You would call down there and nobody would ever answer the phone, or they would switch you over to her unit, and then they wouldn’t answer the phone. It would go straight to voicemail. I would leave a message,” Harris said.

On Aug. 6, five days before her mom passed, Harris was finally able to get in touch with a nursing home employee who said her mom was tested for COVID-19 and should expect results in 72 hours; but the next day, Harris said the nursing home called to tell her they lost her mom’s test results.

“She was just telling me that my mom was sick, real sick. She wasn’t eating, drinking. She had the diarrhea, and as it proceeded, my mom was on oxygen,” Harris said.

Harris said two days later, on Aug. 9, her mom was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Savannah, where she was diagnosed with COVID-19. Her mom was then released back to Magnolia Manor the very next day, as her oxygen levels improved.

Aug. 11 is when Harris received that dreaded phone call.

“I’m getting emotional. She said ‘Your mom...your mom just..’ and I let her get ‘just’ out of her mouth and I threw the phone, and I told her I couldn’t speak to her. I said, ‘I’ll call you back later,’” Harris said.

According to her mom’s death certificate, Singleton died due to COVID-19 and dementia. The approximate interval between the onset of the virus and her death was 30 days.

Harris is now asking why she didn’t know until just a few days before her mom passed.

The president and CEO of Magnolia Manor said it is protocol to call the resident’s guardian if they test positive.

“We’re making weekly calls to try to update conditions and that kind of thing,” CEO/President Mark Todd said.

However, a lack of staffing has hurt communication efforts. Todd said many Magnolia Manor staff have quit due to a rising number of cases in the facility and in the community.

Plus, Todd said the facility was just undergoing renovation when the pandemic hit.

“We may have dropped the ball a little bit along the way, from a communication standpoint, but it’s not because we intentionally did that. It’s because we have all these other things going on, and we’re trying to make sure in the end, number one priority is to take care of the residents we have in that building,” Todd said.

He said the facility declared a state of emergency, resulting in the state sending them extra employees.

WTOC reached out toGeorgia’s Department of Community Health, which overseeshealthcare facility regulations, about how they are handling the spread of the virus in nursing homes.

According to Chas Strong, the pandemic is preventing routine inspections, but the department is conducting onsite surveys when a nursing home has three or more new cases, or if a previously COVID-free facility gets one confirmed case.

Chas Strong said if families are concerned about how a nursing home is handling its positive cases, they should file a formal complaint on itswebsite.

As Harris works to move forward after her mom’s death, she said she is praying no other family feels left in the dark about their loved one’s care at Magnolia Manor.

The facility was testing residents and employees bi-monthly but are now testing twice a week.

Magnolia Manor of Midway released a COVID-19 report Wednesday, Sept. 9. It shows no new positive cases amongst residents and employees, and 62 residents have recovered from the virus.

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.

Photo: WTOC

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