BRANDON — The state on Wednesday ordered the Alafia Village assisted living facility to shut its doors to new residents after officials say they discovered the staff were failing to properly treat and care for residents who tested positive for COVID-19.
The order came from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which said the facility failed to isolate three residents who tested positive for the coronavirus on June 4 — and did not transport them to a hospital for two days.
“The (facility) has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to implement proactive action to protect residents, staff and third parties from the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus,” the order said. “Such defiant practices and conditions justify the imposition of an immediate moratorium on admissions.”
The order was issued as Florida reported new single-day record of 120 deaths, including 40 in the Tampa Bay area and 19 from Hillsborough County. The total number of those infected in the state rose to 232,718.
State officials said an administrator told them Alafia Village had no plan in place for handling infected residents, despite the virus being discovered in Florida as early as March 1. Gov. Ron DeSantis banned visits to elder-care facilities starting March 14.
A state official visited the facility at 3918 S Kings Ave. on June 6, the order said, and reported these observations:
The facility used improper personal protective equipment. The official said employees failed to take off the gloves they used while aiding residents who tested positive and kept them on when they went to help residents who were not infected.
Several employees who treated the positive residents told the state they were never trained to care for coronavirus patients, which is required by Florida law. No safety measures were put in place, either.
“When asked of the facility’s plans in caring for residents in light of COVID-19 positive residents, the facility administrator indicated that there would be no change of rooms ... or the assignment of dedicated staff to the positive residents,” the order said. “The administrator believed the use of Lysol, surgical and cloth masks, and gloves would be sufficient for staff to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Alafia Village had 46 residents as of Wednesday, according to the order. The managers could not be reached for comment. The facility’s office did not return calls seeking comment.
The state official detailed this incident they observed on July 6: At 12:30 p.m., a staffer entered the room of resident who tested positive. The staff member wore only a cloth mask and gloves, helped clean up lunch, left and entered the staff break room.
The staffer did not remove her protective gear or wash their hands.
In the break room, the inspector said, the staff member encountered a resident who was not infected, who was sitting at a table with a beverage. The staffer greeted and then touched the resident — using the gloves she wore while caring for the infected resident.
The same employee later told officials she had never worn a gown, face shield, or N95 mask while caring for psoitive residents.
The facility’s administrator said she knew the staff was required to undergo COVID-19 training, the order said, but she chose not to pursue it.
About 155,000 people live in Florida’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, according to a May state audit, and most are seniors — the population most at risk from the coronavirus. In the state, 35 facilities in Florida having seen at least a dozen deaths due to the virus as of Thursday.
Alafia Village had not reported deaths from the virus, according to the latest state data. It lists four residents and four staff members who have tested positive.
Despite the low number of cases, the order says it is forcing the facility to close its doors for the safety of the residents:
“The (facility) has failed to meet these minimum licensure standards and these failures are not isolated events, but (are) operational and management system deficiencies affecting the health, safety and well-being of the (facility’s) current or future resident population.”
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