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Michiana long-term care facilities lack case count transparency

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - As states are finally releasing the number of positive coronavirus cases in nursing homes, the data is staggering.

In Indiana, those cases make up 1/3 of all coronavirus cases in the state. In Michigan, those cases are only 14% of the total cases in the state.

Long-term care facilities are required to notify local and state health departments of any and all coronavirus cases and deaths inside.

The state published those numbers on their website however, we uncovered some major discrepancies, involving Hallmark Living where the numbers reported there are far from the truth.

Hallmark Living isn’t even on the state’s list but its old name of Orchard Grove is. And Orchard reported 0 cases of the virus.

But the Berrien County Health Department confirms there are at least 30 known coronavirus cases inside the building on East Empire Avenue.

“There have been 30 people total that have tested positive at this point. 11 of those are staff and 19 of those are residents who have lived at hallmark. 5 of those residents have unfortunately passed away,” Gillian Conrad, a spokesperson for the Berrien County Health Department said.

Conrad assured ABC57 Hallmark Living has reported their numbers to the state and that this is an issue with the database, not the nursing home's reporting.

“They do that through a variety of channels, one of which is a database. The state of Michigan has published data on its website that pulling from this database that is apparently not as updated as it should be,” Conrad said.

However, it does bring in to question how many other facilities are incorrectly listed as having 0 cases on the state’s website.

Well, ABC57 reached out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for some answers and they sent us this statement:

“Orchard grove is showing as not reporting. Also, this is self-reported data by the facilities. The facility name is what currently exists in the EMResource database. We are working through the updates needed to match current ownership/names. Facilities are required to report daily and information will be posted to the website M-F.”

The reality is, the number of positive coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities is staggering. But there may be dozens of cases or more not reported.

Conrad says there are most likely more cases than what the state’s data shows.

However, she said the discrepancy isn’t because long-term care facilities are not reporting their cases but because the database the state pulls from is not up to date.

“It’s important for public health to be providing accurate and transparent information especially during this time and especially where it concerns our most vulnerable populations,” she said. “It is something that we are concerned with and want to make sure that the state's website is pulling out correct information and we are able to make it available for our community.”

Conrad tells ABC57 the state is actively working on getting the database updated.

However, transparency issues are not a problem at all long-term care facilities. In fact, one company has published every single coronavirus case at every one of its care facilities across the United States – including Greenleaf Health Campus in Elkhart.

Trilogy Health Services is finally opening up and quite frankly is the first company ABC57 has seen being this open and clear about the number of cases inside its facilities and sharing it with families.

Pamela Ewing’s mom is a resident of Greenleaf Nursing Home in Elkhart. 6 weeks ago, the family was notified that an employee at the home had tested positive and then on Monday Ewing was alerted that her mother was one of the then 27 residents at Greenleaf who had tested positive for the virus.

And the only way that I found out was that her kind aid sent me a picture of my mother,” Ewing said.

However, Ewing and her family say employees at Greenleaf were slow to notify the families and that their communication was slim to none early on.

For me a text once a week, that’s not going to cut it, if that’s what they mean by their communicating. I need a little bit more than and I think I deserve more than that,” she said.

But now, Trilogy Health Services, the parent company of Greenleaf, has published every single positive coronavirus case for every long-term care facility it owns on a public website.

According to their data, 35 of 70 residents and 12 of 96 employees at green leaf have either tested positive or are presumed positive.

Trilogy also outlined the steps they are taking to mitigate coronavirus spread such as limiting visitors, screening everyone coming through the door, regularly taking residents and staff temperatures and following isolation protocols.

“The health and well-being of our residents and employees has been and continues to be, our top priority. It’s heartbreaking that despite all of our proactive measures, COVID-19 still found a way into Greenleaf Health Campus. While we grieve with those who have lost loved ones, we will continue to relentlessly pursue our mission of caring for and protecting those who remain in our care,” the Trilogy President and CEO, Leigh Ann Barney, said in a statement to ABC57.

Trilogy would not confirm the number of COVID-19 deaths at Greenleaf, but you can visit this website for it’s up to date coronavirus case information.

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