Federal authorities conducted a raid on Sep. 3 at a Pennsylvania nursing home where hundreds of residents and staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. Armed with a search warrant, agents of the FBI, state attorney general’s office and other agencies inspected Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center located northeast of Pittsburgh, according to Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania’s Western District.
Authorities also raided Mt. Lebanon Rehabilitation and Wellness Center – another Pittsburgh nursing home run by the same owners as Brighton – on the same day, a WXPI report said. The raids on both nursing homes follow an investigation of a Pa. scandal that centered on the housing of COVID-19 patients alongside more vulnerable patients. Attorney Brady encouraged anyone with information about abuse or fraud in relation to the pandemic to get in touch with authorities.
Data from the State Department of Health showed that 447 residents and staff members tested positive for the coronavirus at the Brighton location alone, with 73 deaths recorded.
Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro confirmed on Aug. 13 that Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center is among the subjects of his office’s investigations into neglect at nursing homes.
The reports of conditions and practices at the Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center are deeply troubling. I can confirm that Brighton is one of the subjects of our criminal investigations into neglect at nursing homes during the pandemic.https://t.co/wDNhthlzqm
— AG Josh Shapiro (@PAAttorneyGen) August 12, 2020
Authorities have flagged Brighton multiple times – even before the pandemic began
Prior to the Sep. 3 raid and the Aug. 13 confirmation by Attorney General Shapiro, Medicare inspectors had already pointed out lapses in the nursing home’s day to day operations during a September 2019 inspection. These issues merited Brighton a “below average” rating of 2 out of 5 stars.
Deficiencies cited by the inspectors included improper storage of soiled bed sheets, lack of hand washing facilities and failure to properly sanitize pots and large pans. Inspectors also indicated multiple examples of “filthy conditions” in the nursing home such as stained ceiling tiles, splintered wood and chipped vinyl on door frames and “visible dirt, dust, debris and black spots” on the front grills of air conditioning units.
In addition, health inspectors reported instances of improper resident care. One patient with a leaking catheter was lying on a urine-soaked bed, with nobody bothering to change “the wet sheets and pad.” Another patient had a hurting leg with the dressing unchanged in three days.
Brighton also came under scrutiny during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, with its use of hydroxychloroquine on residents without state approval. The facility gave it to around 200 residents – nearly half of its total population – in July, saying that the residents consented to the treatment. However, the state health department disputed this in a statement, saying that Brighton did not get approval to use hydroxychloroquine from the department.
The FDA revoked the use of hydroxychloroquine as an emergency drug in June after studies showed it was not effective in treating COVID-19. Brighton officials said they stopped giving residents the drug after the FDA’s announcement. (Related: How a false hydroxychloroquine narrative was created.)
Later, Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Aug. 21 that Brighton managers refused to cooperate with his office for an audit. The auditor general added that the review planned to see if Medicaid patients “receive the services for which the state is billed by direct care providers.”
Administration now probing why COVID-19 patients were housed alongside the more vulnerable
In light of the coronavirus infections and fatalities at Brighton and other nursing homes, the Department of Justice had sent out letters to a number of state governors – including Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – requesting information on the number of COVID-19 deaths in such facilities. The office of Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf said Aug. 28 that they are reviewing the request and will turn over any information the Justice Department requires.
Housing patients with COVID-19 alongside the elderly in poorly managed facilities has caused coronavirus outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes all over the country.
A Massachusetts nursing home for veterans experienced a coronavirus outbreak in May, leaving almost 70 residents dead. Staffing issues at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers’ Home played a big role in the spread of the virus there. A poorly managed nursing home in San Antonio, Texas had three-quarters of its resident population testing positive for the coronavirus in April. This outbreak resulted in five deaths.
According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. listed almost 6.2 million coronavirus cases with 187,750 deaths and almost 2.3 million recoveries.
Find out more updates about coronavirus infections in nursing homes at Pandemic.news.