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'Get the people out of there': Nursing home resident dies after testing positive for COVID-19; Relative says more needs to be done to stop the spread

Signature HealthCARE of Jacksonville said 18 residents have died after testing positive for COVID-19. 74 residents and 35 staff have tested positive.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — “I'm very angry. I'm hurt. I'm heartbroken. I'm saddened,” Kelly Doty said.

It's been four days since Doty said she got a call that her aunt, Joan Wilson, 68, died at Signature HealthCARE of Jacksonville after testing positive for COVID-19.

“We were notified that she did test positive, so I called and checked on her I guess it was last Monday or last Wednesday and they told me she had no signs, no symptoms. She was asymptomatic, no fever. She was doing great. She was smiling,” Doty said.

Monday night when the nursing home called to inform her of her aunt’s death, she said she was shocked. 

“I lost it. I told the lady you know you've got the wrong person,” Doty said. “It was like a throat punch.”

State records show the nursing home is licensed to have 180 beds. According to the facility’s daily recorded message a total of 74 residents and 35 staff have tested positive. Eighteen residents who tested positive have died.

A spokesperson for Signature HealthCARE told First Coast News that if a resident has COVID-19, even if their experts think they died of another cause, they are required to list it as a COVID-19 death.

“Before all this happened, they were giving me any information I wanted to know. I could go in there and talk to the doctors. I could give them my opinion on changing her meds up, what meds worked better for her. Now they won’t tell me anything. They won’t tell me if she was ever put on a respirator,” Doty said. “They won’t tell me anything at all because my brother, my nephew and my dad all want to know how she died.”

Signature HealthCARE said Under HIPAA and Florida law, Doty is not authorized to receive any information on a person that has passed at their facility, even if she was listed as an emergency contact.

Doty said she is sharing her aunt’s story in hopes of saving lives.

“Look at the numbers. The numbers would tell you to get the people out of there,” Doty said.  

Signature HealthCARE said it has implemented facility-wide testing, screens employees and residents daily and has created a COVID unit or wing.

We reached out to the health department asking for specifics on how it is responding to a large number of positive cases at this facility.

“When the state is alerted of a COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility, a Rapid Emergency Support Team (REST) is deployed. REST teams immediately respond to long-term care facilities who have patients who become COVID-19 positive. These teams prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facility and remain at the facility to provide additional patient care while staff members are trained to provide clinical care for COVID-19 patients,” Samantha Epstein, a spokeswoman with Florida Department of Health in Duval County, said.

We also reached out to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

“The Agency is actively supporting the Department of Health (DOH) with monitoring of facilities which includes review of appropriate isolation, infection control practices and personal protective equipment. We continue follow up with providers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents and staff and to monitor implementation of facility requirements from DOH,” Patrick Manderfield, Deputy Communications Director, said.

Doty wants more to be done so that no other family loses a loved one there.

“Something needs to be done before more patients get lost,” Doty said.

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