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Ohio nursing home residents say COVID-19 hardships are affecting their overall care

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 10:27 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A 19 News investigation revealed how COVID-19 may be affecting the overall care of those inside Ohio nursing homes.

Because of his health issues, 57-year-old James Stalker’s lived in a nursing home since 2015.

“I didn’t think it could get any worse, but it became worse,” he said.

He says he transferred out of one facility when the pandemic hit.

But, after realizing he just couldn’t manage in his own home, he came to live here at Pleasant Lake Villa in Parma.

“We’re sitting there already sick and worried about our lives,” he said.

Since August, he says he’s been unhappy with the care. He was especially upset with how he was treated when he contracted the virus a few months in.

“It became a dump in my room, where I was tying the garbage bags and having to throw it across the room, and it was just piling up,” Stalker said.

He says he understood why housekeeping visits were limited, as to prevent the spread of the virus.

But, at the same time, he was living in filth.

“You would hear aids come in the room see the garbage and say ‘I’m not a housekeeper, that’s not my job,’” Stalker said.

We discovered 16 complaints have been filed with the Ohio Department of Health last fall, on behalf of residents in the facility

And, not all are necessarily related to the COVID unit.

Stalker says he and his family filed two of the complaints, with the most recent one being at the end of January, when his clogged toilet went days without attention.

“It smelled like an outhouse in here,” he said. “[the nurse] just kept dumping the bed pans in the toilet.”

And, he says he filed other complaints this fall when he was forced to live in filth.

Stalker says he took pictures and video of his situation and they make his allegations much more believable.

“The same young lady left a bedpan on my dresser full of waste,” he said.

We reached out to Pleasant Lake Villa about Stalker’s claims.

A spokesperson gave us the following statement:

Pleasant Lake Villa takes the quality of resident care very seriously and has robust systems in place to ensure a high standard of care is met and maintained. While HIPAA prohibits us from disclosing any information regarding the treatment or care of any specific residents, we wanted to get back to you regarding your inquiries. Without reference to any specific resident, the allegations presented in your email are not consistent with the quality of care provided or the environmental conditions at our facility, nor has any survey ever substantiated such findings.

In our industry, concerns being called into the Ohio Department of Health and/or the Cuyahoga County Board of Health are commonplace. We always welcome the process to improve, and as our survey results reflect, the care and services provided at Pleasant Lake Villa are of the highest quality. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has rated Pleasant Lake Villa as a 5-Star Overall facility, including issuing a 5-Star rating for Quality Measures.

There is no doubt that this past year has been difficult. The added stress for our staff, as well as the emotional toll on families and residents being separated from each other by virtue of regulatory restrictions on visitation, have challenged us all. It has been both the heroic efforts of the staff, and the gracious patience and support of our residents and families, that continues to allow us to navigate together through these unprecedented times.

According to data from the Ohio Department of Health, the nursing home’s statement is accurate.

State inspectors have generated four reports about the complaints that were investigated over the last four months.

State investigators do say they found some issues in the facility’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID, which were corrected in the timeframe the state allotted. But, none of the reports mention unsanitary conditions like the ones Stalker brought up.

Stalker says that’s because the state investigator did not come look at his pictures.

“On December 18, I get a phone call from someone with the state saying she came by, but my door was shut and I told her my door is always shut,” he said.

Stalker believes COVID has become somewhat of a scapegoat for issues that arise in nursing homes right now.

“There is no accountability anymore because if you do something wrong, all you have to do is say it’s COVID,” he said.

Ohio legislators passed a bill last fall providing a temporary liability shield for nursing homes against lawsuits and other claims until September of 2021.

Opponents argued the move could affect quality of overall care, and potentially hide misconduct unrelated to the virus.

Stalker says, “How can COVID affect that you left a bed pan by my TV?”

Stalker says he has absolutely no intention to file a lawsuit, but he just wants people including those who can’t advocate for themselves to get the care they deserve.

“I’m not after money. me getting money doesn’t do anything,” he said. “I was born poor and I will die poor. All I am asking for is the care and do right.”

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