‘This is what you signed up for.’ Nursing home staff say safety concerns were dismissed as outbreak grew.

Published: May. 22, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT
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Empty soap dispensers. An ongoing shortage of masks and gowns. Employees pressured to come into work even if they had symptoms of COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged nursing and long-term care facilities, whose vulnerable patients account for nearly 60 percent of the 1,099 deaths state health officials have so far linked to the virus.

What follows is one staffer’s description of the outbreak at Colonial Heights Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, a more than 190-bed facility located 30 minutes south of Richmond where staff says they’ve been told more than 40 patients tested positive.

The Virginia Mercury confirmed the details of the account with one additional staff member and two former staff members who said they quit recently because they were so disturbed by the way the facility was responding to the disease. They all spoke on the condition that their names not be used, saying they feared professional repercussions for speaking out.

In a statement, Colonial Heights Health Care said state health officials had reviewed their response to the virus and found no deficiencies. “We continue to work directly with local and state health departments and follow all guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols to ensure our residents and staff are protected,” they wrote.

Administrators repeatedly referred back to the statement rather than answer specific questions about the employees’ accounts.

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