San Antonio nursing home housing COVID-19 patients reduces number of residents in effort to improve care

City's medical director says state health and human services staff doing 'intensive work' on site

River City Care Center in the 900 block of Nolan Street. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – City officials confirmed Thursday the East Side nursing home designated earlier this year to house COVID-19 positive patients has reduced its number of residents.

The confirmation comes less than two weeks after staff and multiple families of residents at River City Care Center, in the 900 block of Nolan Street, told the KSAT 12 Defenders elevated room temperatures caused medical distress for a number of patients.

“We understand that HHSC (Health and Human Services Commission) remains on site doing intensive work with River City. The facility has intentionally reduced the number of residents it is serving so they can provide attentive care to a smaller number of patients. I am confident that when HHSC closes their investigation, River City Care Center will be significantly improved,” said Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo in a written statement released Thursday afternoon.

Seven residents at River City have died from COVID-19 complications since the start of the pandemic. The facility is meant to isolate and provide care for coronavirus patients who are suffering mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization.

Families, staff describe hot conditions for COVID-19 overflow patients at East Side nursing home

The facility, chosen in April by its parent company, has to date housed 171 patients with the virus, according to figures released by city officials Thursday.

Thirty residents remain at the facility, according to the city’s figures.

A city spokesman pointed out last week that more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths nationwide are nursing home residents, while that percentage in Bexar County is much lower, at just 20 percent according to figures released by the city Thursday night.

“From an infection control standpoint, River City serves an important function in allowing for the isolation of COVID-positive nursing home residents from other healthy residents,” the spokesman said via email last week.

A press officer for HHSC confirmed Tuesday its investigation of the facility is ongoing.

A spokeswoman for the company that owns the facility, Creative Solutions in Healthcare, released the following statement Thursday night:

As cases surged in recent weeks, River City Care Center approached capacity and the decision was made to limit the number of new admissions as current patients recover and are discharged. We are working closely with Texas Health and Human Services to assure we provide the highest quality care possible in these unprecedented times. It is our hope is the current coronavirus surge will diminish and with it, the need for additional COVID-only care at River City Care Center. Creative Solutions in Healthcare assumed operation of River City Care Center last year and the facility transitioned to a COVID-only facility near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in April to provide a much needed resource to the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. Creative Solutions in Healthcare does not receive additional state funding to care for COVID-19 patients, and in fact incurs an increased per patient cost due to COVID-related expenses such as staff incentive pay, overtime pay, and PPE.  The decision to serve COVID-19 patients stems from a belief that it is the right thing to do for the community, and reflects a core value of our company. We will continue to provide support for our patients and their families and our dedicated staff, who work tirelessly to provide the best care possible.

River City was one of two San Antonio nursing homes chosen in April to house COVID-19 positive patients.

The other facility, Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare, backed out of the plan days later after facing intense scrutiny.

An employee at River City, who requested anonymity, told the KSAT 12 Defenders earlier this month air conditioning issues at the building on July 4 caused a number of residents to suffer significant medical problems.

The staff member, who was not authorized to speak to media, said two of these residents later died.

Records obtained by the Defenders show last July, an inspector found temperatures inside the facility as high as 82.9 degrees.

The inspector described the air temperature in one room as “hot” and noted that a resident was seen on a bed wearing only shorts with a fan blowing directly on his face.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.