Family member of patient at Accordius describes struggle to get in contact with mom

Southers said her mom has lived at the facility over the past six years.
Southers said her mom has lived at the facility over the past six years.(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 5:54 PM EDT
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For the past six years, Bonnie Southers says her 93-year-old mom has lived at Accordius Health in Harrisonburg. Bonnie has visited her weekly throughout that time.

But on Monday, Southers says she started to panic after hearing that the Virginia Department of Health

her mom's facility for a COVID-19 outbreak.

She said she was never notified of the situation by the facility and kept trying to call her mom and the front office to see if she was okay.

"We've been trying to get a hold of her in her room on her room phone, but it just rings and rings and nobody would answer," Southers said. "I would try the desk, they would take my name and said they would call me back, but no one ever called me back."

Late Wednesday night, after local media, including WHSV,

, Bonnie said she was able to finally speak with her mom by calling her on her room phone again.

She said she cried just hearing her mom's voice again knowing she was alright.

Southers said her sister is also listed as the caretaker for their mom and received a call from Accordius shortly afterward, days after testing for COVID-19 began at the facility.

On Tuesday, the medical director of Accordius Health Harrisonburg told WHSV there had been at least four positive tests for coronavirus at their facility, but at that time, 97 other people had pending tests. With the help of UVA Health and the Virginia Department of Health, the facility was able to get everyone there, including residents and staff, tested.

The facility allegedly told Southers' sister their mother tested negative for the coronavirus.

"I had a big relief on me, but I'm still so scared because she's still in that building," Southers said.

Southers said she understands the facility may be low on staff and are busy, but she wants an employee at the phone to give more information out to families.

"I'm not blaming anything on the home or the workers," Southers said. " I feel sorry for all of them, I'm praying for all of them. I'm upset, angry, and hurt, but I had no contact with my mom for days."

She said she still has many questions that are unanswered, like when she can see her mom again or get her out of the facility. Those are questions she hopes to hear the answers to soon.

"Accordius, I know you're scared, but you're not handling things the right way," Southers said. "You don't have the nurses in there showing us enough and not picking the phone up, our mom could be laying there dying, and we wouldn't even know it."

WHSV reached out to the facility and is still waiting for a response.

According to a statement issued on Thursday, the Central Shenandoah Health District says they have been working with every long-term care facility throughout the region since the start of the pandemic to ensure they all have the knowledge and resources necessary to respond effectively.

"We have a history of working together to provide for the health and safety of residents and staff," the district said.

They say they're applying those efforts to the ongoing outbreak at Accordius Health.

Working with UVA Health, the district says they've begun an aggressive testing campaign for all residents and staff at Accordius. As the results of those tests come in, they say the data will help them plan their response more effectively to protect the health and safety of staff.

However, those results do not have to be made publicly available.

According to Tammie Smith, the public relations coordinator for the Virginia Department of Health, Accordius Health agreed to the release of their name by the department for CSHD's announcement, but they did not agree to the department releasing any information beyond that.

Any further information, Smith said, has to come directly from the facility, which has not responded to requests for comment from WHSV or other local media outlets.

If the patients are being treated at Sentara RMH, those numbers are also not being released at this time. While Augusta Health is sharing the number of COVID-19 positive patients they've treated on their website, Sentara RMH is not publicizing those numbers and directing people to the Virginia Department of Health for data.

Overall, as of April 16, the Virginia Department of Health reported 119 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Harrisonburg and 69 cases in Rockingham County. Those state numbers always lag a day or more behind the confirmations at a local level, however.

The CSHD says their response has been coordinated with Accordius Health, the Virginia Department of Health, local first responders, and the local hospital system.

You can learn more about the overall status of the Accordius outbreak, with the information that has been confirmed,