The First Ward Report – What went wrong at Bria

Having covered this pandemic from a mathematical perspective for over two months now, the only number that really shocks me is that 48 percent of Illinois coronavirus casualties have come in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Remove those utterly unnecessary deaths and the Illinois mortality rate would plunge to just 2.3 percent. That’s not a great number either, but it’s a heck of a lot better than our current 4.4 percent rate.

Considering how those Italian doctors sounded the early warning that the average age of their coronavirus victims was 79.5, and 99 percent of those unfortunate folks had a serious medical condition that greatly contributed to their deaths, you’d think U. S. nursing homes would’ve instantly sounded the red alert.

But the numbers tell a different story, don’t they?

Given the ample press coverage, I’m sure you already know that Bria on Geneva, Illinois’ ease side, is one of the hardest hit Illinois facilities. As of Friday, they reported a frightening 122 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths.

Bria Geneva 2

But despite the glare of that extended press spotlight, no reporter has adequately explained why so many cases and deaths occurred there. Left unchallenged, Bria administrators are claiming they’ve implemented the appropriate safeguards all along.

But that’s not what a surprising number of sources either posted on Facebook or told me directly. Here’s what they’ve said:

1. Staff wasn’t tested or even minimally screened (temperature taking etc.) for the disease until residents’ family members publicly complained about it in mid-April.

2. When employees alerted Bria management they’d been exposed to a friend or family member with the virus, they were told to come in to work anyway.

3. Janitors, food service staff, and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) weren’t provided with any real form of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) until mid-April.

4. Bria allowed staff and family members to have direct contact with residents despite the clear threat of transmitting a disease with an exceptionally contagious R-naught of 2.3. For comparison purposes, the average annual flu’s R-Naught is just 1.5.

5. When residents started developing obvious COVID-19 symptoms, most were never tested, leaving the coroner’s office to determine if decedents had the disease post-mortem. One of the most frequent complaints I heard was that Bria never told the families their loved ones were sick.

6. Each resident’s room should have been stocked with masks, gloves, gowns, sanitary wipes, and bleach wipes from the pandemic start. But Bria didn’t even provide the typical hand sanitizer stations you see at doorways in virtually every medical institution.

7. A Batavia Holmstad source said that even their food service employees are required to change scrubs and PPE whenever they move from one resident’s room to another. But Bria didn’t implement that important protocol until the press started asking questions.

8. Whenever staff discards PPE or scrubs, they should be promptly deposited into a clearly marked and sealable red bio-hazard container. But Bria staff were told to simply toss those items into regular laundry hampers.

9. Food service containers and trays should be similarly treated to prevent cross contamination, but Bria didn’t take that precaution, either.

10. My Holmstad source also explained how exhausting it is to change scrubs and PPE every time you enter another resident’s room. But Bria made that critical safeguard virtually impossible to carry out by having just 15 CNAs on shifts that, by their own policies, required at least 30. That would go a long way towards explaining those 122 coronavirus cases.

11. Since these inexplicable lapses speak for themselves, my goal is to adopt a more dispassionate disposition this round. But when I learned that Bria made no effort to stop staff from throwing obvious biohazards like dirty diapers, soiled gloves, and toilet brushes into open plastic garbage cans and laundry hampers, I was more than appalled.

Meanwhile, the Holmstad applies a double team standard by which a designated janitor stays outside the room, while a cleanup crew member heads in wearing bleach whites. Any biohazard laundry or waste is quickly double-bagged and handed to that janitor, who deposits it directly into the appropriate red container. Once full, those containers are sealed to prevent any undue COVID-19 transmission.

The bottom line? While Bria’s coronavirus numbers are off the charts, the Holmstad hasn’t reported a single case.

As is always the case, I provided Bria with two full days to address my sources’ concerns and they have failed to take advantage of that opportunity.

So far, two wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by devastated family members, and if I was a betting man, I’d say Bria will soon face 20 more. My guess is they’ll file for bankruptcy before the smoke finally clears.

With the hard reporting out of the way, the corresponding opinion piece will run on Friday. In that column, we’ll discuss the all-to-obvious reason that Bria let their residents down, as well as the Governor’s vast hypocrisy for threatening to pull business licenses, while doing nothing about the industry responsible for half of all Illinois coronavirus deaths.

6 thoughts on “The First Ward Report – What went wrong at Bria

  1. Good reporting, Jeff. The nursing facilities should have been the FIRST to shut down and institute procedures. I belong to a volunteer group that would go into nursing homes and read to folks weekly. There were several times when they were on lockdown for weeks at a time for any number of thing – pink eye, flu, etc. It just makes sense.

    • Thank you VIcki, although these are the stories that I fervently wish would pass me by because they do take a piece of me that I will never recover.

  2. They will file bankruptcy and then the families will file criminal lawsuits against the owners/managers. I would. Very sad.

    • Amber,

      There’s no such thing as a criminal lawsuit as they’re all heard in civil courtrooms. That said, I’m not sure why the State’s Attorney’s Office hasn’t ordered some sort of investigation. The situation certainly seems to warrant it.

  3. Well at least the Governor has a policy. Quarantine everyone shut business down everyone stay home. One size fits all. I do believe we have a first don’t make the old, ill most vulnerable stay in or give extra precautions to those we know are at risk just make sure no more than two in a boat or one in a golf cart.

  4. Demo Govs in NY, MI, and Calif. paid nursing homes a $5,000 bounty to take COVID-19 patients to clear hospitals..!

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