19 Investigates: COVID-19 testing availability in nursing homes not always equal

19 Investigates: COVID-19 testing availability in nursing homes not always equal

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 Investigates found the amount of testing available for COVID-19 in nursing homes isn't necessarily equal.

We found it's a cooperative effort between local health departments and the Ohio Department of Health to help get long term care facilities the COVID-19 tests they need.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health told 19 News "long-term care facilities are a priority in terms of testing, so we are doing our best to help them as supplies are made available."

We asked whether it's been a challenge to get some of these nursing homes tests due to the supply.

"Yes, it has been an issue. Testing supplies are just now starting to become more available,” spokesperson Kevin Brennan said.

Westpark Neurology and Rehab Center in Cleveland says getting enough tests has been an issue.

We spoke to CEO and owner Eli Coury by phone Monday.

“The other problem is we could not get testing. We're talking back in early April,” he said.

Westpark has had nearly 60 COVID-19 cases in residents and more than a dozen cases in staff members over two weeks. Coury said seven people there have died of the disease.

He said they now have an arrangement with the Cleveland Clinic to get about 15 swabs a day to test residents and staff.

“It’s just a very limited supply of testing in the nursing homes. And it’s frustrating because I hear on the national news that nursing homes are a priority to get testing done, but where are the tests?” Coury asked.

O’Neill Healthcare in North Ridgeville had the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a nursing home statewide last week.

Seventy-one residents and 34 staff members were diagnosed over two weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

You can look at their latest numbers of COVID-19 in nursing homes here.

In a statement sent to us on Monday, O'Neill Healthcare said:

"Testing 100% of our residents resulted in a larger number of positive cases than other facilities reported, as testing elsewhere was more limited. Although our total number of cases resulted in media attention, it provided our nursing staff, doctors and the hospitals with the data needed to properly isolate and begin more focused treatment of the virus. The number of residents without symptoms can mask the need for these extra measures. To this point, 60% of our positive cases did not show symptoms that would meet the "normal" testing criteria. These people would not have received treatment until they were much sicker."

O’Neill Healthcare told 19 News they have a partnership set up to get the COVID-19 tests, but they did not elaborate.

It's hard to know exactly how many cases of COVID-19 there have really been.

Some administrators believe in hindsight, if testing would have been a bigger priority for nursing homes from the start, they could have prevented some of these cases.

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