Worcester Nursing Home ‘Pauses’ Transfer Of Residents As Several Test Positive For Coronavirus

When Peter Nelson first heard his mother would be transferred from her regular nursing home in Worcester to a sister-facility in Northbridge, in order to make way patients recovering from COVID-19, he was upset.

On Tuesday, Nelson said he found out his 89-year-old mother, Clara Nelson, would not be moving after all.

A few days after the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Worcester started transferring its residents to other nursing homes so the facility could be converted into a COVID-19 treatment site, Nelson said he called a staffer at Beaumont, who informed him that the transfers had stopped because at least one resident had tested positive for the disease.

In the hours that followed, other residents were tested — and found positive for the coronavirus.

"We did have several Residents test positive for COVID-19 and, as a result, they will remain in Beaumont at Worcester," said a statement from Beaumont's parent company, SALMON Health and Retirement. "The Residents on that floor who did not test positive were transferred to our sister facilities, excepting one Resident who was moved to a facility out of the SALMON Health and Retirement network."

As for the dozens of residents who had already been transferred to other nursing homes, the statement said, "all Residents were assessed for symptoms prior to leaving the facility."

The company also said it was following "protocols developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) to ensure the safety of the other Residents and staff - -as we have done throughout this process--and that were adhered to during the Resident transfers."

Despite the difficulties, the statement said that the plan to begin accepting COVID-19 patients from UMass Memorial Hospital is set to begin on Monday, April 6.

"From an outside perspective, it's all happening very hastily and putting people at risk, and now my mother's obviously at risk," Nelson said in a phone interview with WBUR.

According to a spokesperson from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the office is aware transfers from Beaumont have been "paused." The spokesperson declined to comment more specifically on the situation, but said that it was "taking steps to ensure that the movement of current residents from these facilities does not spread the virus."

The spokesperson from EOHHS said the Massachusetts National Guard, the Department of Public Health and the Broad Institute would be partnering together to conduct on-site coronavirus testing.

Nelson said neither Beaumont nor its parent company, SALMON Health and Retirement, notified him of the situation, and that he only found out when he called the nursing home. He said the person who tested positive resided on the second floor, where patients with dementia, including his mother, reside.

"People are angry," Nelson said. "They have a right to be, because they've been left out of the loop."

Although he understands the public health reasons behind the move, Nelson said, he and others with family members at Beaumont have expressed frustration at the way the transfer has been carried out — without much warning to the families of Beaumont residents and with little communication from the company.

“I have been crying for two days,” said Lynda DiGioia, who said her mother was still at Beaumont even though she was told just hours earlier that her mother would be transferred to Beaumont’s sister facility in Westborough. DiGioia said her multiple calls to Beaumont seeking information on her mother’s condition were not returned.

“I just want to know what’s happening to my mother and no one is giving us any answers,” she said.

The state said the conversion of the Beaumont site into a dedicated treatment facility for COVID-19 patients is meant to be "a model" for other areas of the state where hospitals need a place to discharge those who are not completely recovered but no longer require acute care.

The state is currently in talks with a couple of other nursing facilities, but declined to say how many it was seeking in total.

This article was originally published on April 01, 2020.


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Adrian Ma Reporter
Adrian Ma was a reporter for WBUR's Bostonomix team.



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