SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio city officials on Friday announced a plan to potentially house COVID-19 patients from nursing homes in the region at two long-term care facilities in an effort to try mitigate the spread of the virus. At least one county commissioner has already slammed the move.
The East Side’s River City Care Center and Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare, in west San Antonio, have been chosen as locations where patients from nursing homes who don’t need hospital care could be moved, according to a press release from the city distributed Friday afternoon. The movement of patients would “mitigate the risk of spreading the virus throughout other facilities,” the release said.
Before the city made the public announcement, Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert, whose precinct includes one of the facilities, criticized the city’s plan in an interview with KSAT12.
Calvert said he learned of the plan Friday morning, after public and health officials had already made the decision to move forward with it. City officials confirmed patients from both locations have already been moved to other facilities in the area to make room for potential patients.
“We know these areas best and if you’re going to put it into our area we need to have some consultation,” said Calvert, referring to elected officials who he said were not made aware of the plan ahead of time.
The facility, River City Care Center, has a history of serious care problems, according to Medicare.gov, and was early last year fined more than $120,000 after a resident choked to death.
It’s unclear if the company was ever forced to pay the fine.
A city spokesman said via text Friday the fines and care issue took place under the previous owner and the current owner, Creative Solutions in Healthcare, has been in place since January 2019, the same month the six-figure fine was issued.
A spokeswoman for Creative Solutions in Healthcare declined to answer questions via telephone Friday and said the city of San Antonio would be releasing a statement on its behalf.
The city’s release included the following statement from Gary Blake, president and co-founder of Creative Solutions in Healthcare:
“Each of these patients will receive a skilled nursing level of acre around the clock, staffed by some of our most experienced team members. I can assure you we are committed to upholding the highest standards and protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and our state and local authorities for preventing the spread of the disease within our walls and beyond. We are proud to be part of this assertive and proactive effort to curb this pandemic which has impacted our lives in every possible way.”
A county spokeswoman, meanwhile, referred KSAT’s questions to the city since Metropolitan Health was the lead agency.
“We have a ZIP code that isn’t a high ZIP code for COVID-19, but if you look at 78245 near Lackland, it is now one of the highest ZIP codes for COVID-19. I do not want to see that kind of thing happen in our community,” said Calvert, referring to city statistics that show the 78202 zip code, where River City is located, currently has between 1-4 cases.
Additionally, Calvert pointed out that while African American populations in other large cities have been ravaged by the virus, that has so far not been the case in San Antonio.
According to the city figures, African Americans make up 14.2 percent of positive cases and account for 6% of the overall population.
“Every time you transport somebody in an ambulance you’re exposing the health care ambulance person, you’re moving people in the atmosphere, the air, the things that are touched,” said Calvert, who added that he believes a better option would be to have patients isolate where they are or be moved to a facility such as an expo hall at the Freeman Coliseum.
The expo hall late last month was prepped as an alternative care center if San Antonio hospitals become full.
No residents have been moved to either facility at this time and the localized outbreak at Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation remains the only one in San Antonio so far.
At last check, 10 residents of Southeast Nursing had died and more than 60 residents and staff members continued to battle the deadly virus. The 10 deaths from the facility make up nearly half of Bexar County’s 22 total death toll.
The Texas Tribune reported Friday that 13% of nursing home facilities in the state have at least one resident with COVID-19.