August 3, 2020
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Essex Meadows Pays Fine for COVID-19-Related Oversight

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The Essex Meadows Lifecare retirement community at 30 Bokum Road in Essex was one of several nursing homes recently fined by the state for public health code violations in relation to safeguarding residents and staff from becoming infected with COVID-19.

The $720 citation was issued after an inspection of the facility on May 27.

The state Department of Public Health (DPH) citation report from June 1 indicates that during the state’s inspection visit, a member of the nursing staff was not wearing a face mask or maintaining a six-foot distance from others at the facility’s nursing station.

The nurse “identified that the facility policy required all staff to wear a face mask at all times and to maintain social distancing in the facility, he/she had been drinking coffee and her lips were wet. [The nurse] identified that it had just been for a minute,” according to the DPH citation report.

The facility has paid the fine and continues to educate personnel on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to Essex Meadows’ Executive Director Jennifer Rannestad.

“The health and wellbeing of every one of our staff and residents is our highest priority and we work in full cooperation with the Department of Public Health and local health department to reduce the community’s risk of exposure to COVID-19,” said Rannestad by email.

Rannestad indicated that the facility has implemented several health and safety measures since the onset of COVID-19 in Connecticut, including following the state’s directive to restrict visitor access. Other measures include screening employees with a temperature check upon entering the community, increased cleaning and sanitation, isolating infected patients, and testing residents and staff for COVID-19.

As of June 26, Essex Meadows, which is a 45-bed facility, has had 16 residents infected with COVID-19, and 3 deaths associated with the virus, according to Connecticut Open Data.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman discussed the deaths at Essex Meadows during a June 17 Board of Selectmen meeting.

“It just tells you how insidious this thing is that no matter what we do, it still can sneak in somewhere and once it gets into a facility where patients are close together and the staff is, the staff works in multiple places, up ’til now [the virus] was able to sneak in,” said Needleman. “I think now they’re doing regular testing of staff members and hopefully we won’t see this happen again, but it’s a tragedy.”

Although state inspections have revealed lapses in infection control in relation to COVID-19 at many nursing homes around the state, Essex Meadows was in the minority that have recently been fined.

Other examples include a $10,000 fine at Windsor Health & Rehabilitation Center, LLC in Windsor, a $5,000 fine at Whispering Pines Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in East Haven, a $2,520 fine at Bethel Health & Rehabilitation Center, LLC, and two separate fines, $1,000 and $2,000 for Fairview Health of Southport.

With more than 60 percent of the total coronavirus deaths in Connecticut being residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the state recently announced a plan to better understand how the pandemic was handled in these facilities.

On June 8, Governor Ned Lamont issued a written statement detailing his desire for an independent, third-party review of these facilities. The review will take place before the fall, when a second outbreak of the virus is expected.

Lamont made testing nursing home residents who had not previously tested positive a priority in the months of May and June. He also issued an executive order (Order 7UU) that mandates all staff at these facilities be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis for the duration of the pandemic.

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