Some of the staff at the Envoy of Williamsburg are concerned after they say the facility recently changed its coronavirus (COVID 19) procedures.
That’s according to Ellice Darien, a former LPN and unit manager for Envoy. She said the facility’s corporate office, Consulate Health Care, told staff they were not allowed to test patients with coronavirus symptoms.
Envoy of Williamsburg is a nursing home with 130 beds and Darien said the following message was sent to the director of nursing on March 22:
“No testing in the center by anyone,” the message read. “If local health recommends testing, send resident out to hospital.” Read the message in its entirety here.
“If somebody even presents that they have the coronavirus, we’re supposed to send them to ER,” Darien added.
She also said patients who were previously isolated were placed back into the general population and both patients and staff were not allowed to wear masks ––– even if they provided their own.
Darien was concerned because her 5-year-old grandson has spinal muscular dystrophy and some of the hospital staff have immunocompromised children.
Darien, along with other staff, called the Peninsula Health District to see if they could intervene but they could not.
“The Virginia Department of Health can’t enforce it because Consulate is a private company,” Darien said. “They can’t direct them.”
On Monday, Darien said she found out corporate intercepted patients’ testing kits on March 20, before they could be tested. She said the new rules about the masks was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” so she quit.
Monica Stevens, another unit manager of Envoy, said the regional clinical director, Jennifer Stuart, mentioned during a meeting Friday that the state of Louisiana had contacted Consulate Health Care, giving the facility two hours to “produce their plan for COVID 19 and requested pictures of facility staff using the PPE.”
Stuart wanted staff to “just be aware” of the situation, adding Florida would probably be next and Virginia should prepare, too, Stevens said.
The staff could only wear masks if they were going into the rooms of patients in isolation, Stevens said. She added two boxes, one for each unit, was placed in a bag outside the isolated patients’ rooms.
After the call, Stevens asked Brian Stevenson, executive director for Envoy, if the staff could wear masks in general and he said yes, but did not make more masks available.
Stevens said the supply director informed her the facility had plenty of masks.
Previously the staff were told they could not wear masks because it was making the residents uncomfortable, Stevens said.
“The clinical team is trying very hard to do the right thing but it just feels like no one is listening to us,” Stevens said.
She noted during another meeting Friday that Stuart told all of the executive directors “these are your buildings, they are yours to run as you see fit.”
Stevens said Stevenson has been executive director for a couple of months and is listening to corporate instead of his own team.
If a patient does get the coronavirus, it will be hard to contain because of the old building and nurse shortage, Stevens added.
“It’s going to be a mess if we do get someone,” Stevens said.
Several staff members reached out to WYDaily and corroborated the unit managers’ accounts. However, they declined to comment because they were concerned about the residents’ safety and did not want to lose their jobs.
Response from Virginia Department of Health
Irene Ferrainolo, VDH’s population health manager, said the health district received several calls from Envoy staff about mask use recently but noted the department does not have “regulatory authority” over testing.
“We can make recommendations,” she said, adding the VDH follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. “We can’t say you must put on masks, we must test.”
Ferrainolo said communicable disease staff recently had a conversation about testing with Envoy’s management but felt the facility “had resolved whatever their concerns were.”
As for not testing patients with possible symptoms of the coronavirus and staff not being allowed to use masks around those patients, Ferrainolo said that is an internal decision between the staff and management.
She said the physician determines who can get tested and if they meet the CDC guidelines, the tests can be processed at the state labs.
“CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians,” according to the CDC’s website.
On March 21, the VDH updated its testing criteria with priority testing given to certain groups.
When asked if the VDH could intervene because of the state’s emergency order, Ferrainolo said VDH does not have the authority to do that, but Gov. Ralph Northam does.
Consulate Health Care’s response
WYDaily reached out to Stevenson, the executive director for Envoy at Williamsburg, about the facility’s coronavirus procedures.
Before WYDaily could ask specific questions about the nursing home, Stevenson said he would stick to media statement from Consulate Health Care, adding he would email it to WYDaily.
He has yet to do so.
Jennifer Trapp, spokeswoman for Consulate Health Care, said the company recently updated its media statement on the coronavirus.
While she could not speak about individual facilities, Trapp said all facilities use guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the CDC.
She added that no facility is exempt from following those guidelines.
In terms of the testing kit intervention, Trapp said the claim was all speculation and hearsay.
“I’m not going to respond to allegations and hearsay,” she added.
However, Trapp said if this is something a facility was doing, she would reach out to them directly.
WYDaily reached out to Northam’s office and inquired if a nursing home was not following the guidelines in terms of testing and other procedures, would the governor have the power to intervene.
“The Virginia State Health Commissioner has broad authorities to take action to stop the spread of a contagious disease that threatens the safety of the public,” Alena Yarmosky, spokeswoman for Northam’s office, wrote in an email Thursday. “Individuals who are concerned that appropriate action is not being taken should immediately contact their local health department.”