New federal reporting reveals the Arizona skilled-nursing facilities with the most significant COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.
The elderly and immunocompromised are the most susceptible to dying from COVID-19, officials have long warned. Many in that group live in long-term care facilities, which account for 66 percent of Maricopa County's coronavirus deaths.
"The death rate is high. So we have always been challenged to keep it out of the buildings," said Dave Voepel, CEO of the Arizona Healthcare Association.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid required all of their facilities in the U.S. to begin reporting COVID-19 data in May. Now they are publishing the number of resident and staff cases and deaths weekly - something Arizona and its Department of Health Services (DHS) refused to do, citing HIPAA and state law.
For the first time, Arizonans have an idea of the scope and toll of COVID-19 in CMS skilled-nursing facilities across the state.
The following are the top 10 (out of 147 facilities) when it comes to resident cases:
- Sapphire Of Tucson Nursing and Rehab, LLC - 107
- Providence Place At Glencroft - 82
- Haven Of Phoenix - 48
- Haven Of Sandpointe, LLC - 40
- La Estancia Nursing and Rehabilitation Center - 24
- Oasis Pavilion Nursing & Rehabilitation Center - 23
- Lifestream At Cook Health Care - 22
- Sunview Respiratory And Rehabilitation - 21
- Haven Of Tucson - 21
- Haven Of Lake Havasu - 18
ABC15 has reported on the Glencroft facility in Glendale in the past, which began self-reporting its numbers online before the federal data became public.
Glencroft also offers multiple care options and touts itself as "The Largest Senior Living Community in Arizona."
Tragically, at least 20 of their residents have died after contracting COVID - the second-most in the state.
In total, 180 men and women have died while calling a skilled-nursing facility home. Nine of them lived at Desert Cove in Chandler.
"COVID-19 is a wicked killing machine when it gets into a population of seniors who have acuity issues," said Voepel.
These are the ten facilities with the most resident deaths:
- Sapphire Of Tucson Nursing And Rehab, LLC - 30
- Providence Place At Glencroft - 20
- Sapphire Estates Rehab Centre, LLC - 17
- Handmaker Home For The Aging - 16
- Immanuel Campus Of Care - 9
- Sun West Choice Healthcare & Rehab - 9
- Desert Cove Nursing Center - 9
- Mission Palms Post Acute - 7
- Oasis Pavilion Nursing & Rehabilitation Center - 6
- Lake Pleasant Post Acute Rehabilitation Center – 6
About 600 employees have contracted COVID, compared with about 650 residents. But only two staff members have died, while 180 residents have passed away. Voepel says initially facilities were more susceptible to outbreaks because of the PPE shortage.
"We've learned a lot of lessons from that. So instead of the whole building getting it, now you have just a couple of folks getting it," he said, noting facilities now isolate patients quicker and more effectively.
Tragically it's too late for some, like Bill O'Brien. He was the first resident to contract COVID at Westchester Senior Living in Tempe. The facility is now third in Arizona for staff cases - with 52 employees testing positive so far.
These are the locations with the most staff cases:
- Providence Place At Glencroft - 81
- Haven Of Sandpointe, LLC - 57
- Westchester Care Center - 52
- Sante Of Surprise - 46
- Sapphire Of Tucson Nursing and Rehab, LLC - 38
- Haven Of Tucson - 36
- Haven Of Phoenix - 30
- Scottsdale Village Square - 24
- Handmaker Home For The Aging - 18
- Immanuel Campus Of Care - 17
The numbers can be scary for those entrusting their loved one into someone else's care. Voepel says the facilities are improving every day, but relatives should still ask tough questions.
"You should always ask, 'How many COVID cases have you had? How many do you have right now, and... What was your game plan?' They all have to have action plans," he said.
"Community spread plays a big role in what happens within your nursing home," said Voepel.
As the numbers in Arizona decrease, the elderly population most at risk will be safer, which is why Governor Ducey ended a press conference asking everyone, "to behave responsibly, so they can protect each other and protect the most vulnerable."
Some facilities have disputed the information reported publicly by CMS.
Sapphire Estates Rehab Centre in Tucson told ABC15, "the most recent data released by CMS contains a significant error."
They released the following statement:
To date, Sapphire Estates has had only one resident who passed away from complications related to the COVID-19 virus.
The CMS data conflicts with itself; it claims a total of 12 resident deaths from all causes, yet attributes 17 deaths to coronavirus. Under any circumstances, it's impossible to have more covid deaths than total overall deaths.
We are investigating to determine where the error occurred and will work with CMS to ensure they receive accurate information.