After relatives of two former Bedford Care Center of Hattiesburg residents publicly called on state authorities to shutter the nursing home, The PineBelt NEWS contacted facility officials for a response, and Administrator Shawn Carpenter issued a statement via email on Thursday.
In a previous story, family members of 84-year-old Angelean Montgomery, who died of COVID-19 on May 6, and 65-year-old Willie Lampley, a resident who contracted the virus and was moved to another facility, accused nursing home officials of negligence in controlling the spread of the highly contagious virus.
The facility has reported 25 resident deaths and, as of June 6, a cumulative total of 55 employee cases and 93 resident cases.
In the story, Montgomery’s children, Debbie Hinton and Linda Carroll, said they reported problems at the facility to administrators, and their complaints were ignored. The sisters said their challenges included a lack of communication, including an inability to reach their mother by phone, and poor treatment of patients.
Lampley’s sister, Renee Arnold, echoed the Montgomery family’s concerns.
In his statement, Carpenter wrote that privacy laws prohibit him from addressing specific complaints. He added that the facility offers “...several avenues to accept complaints from residents or their family members,” including accepting complaints filed directly with the nursing home administrator.
“I keep track of each of these complaints and make sure they are addressed with the appropriate responsible party,” wrote Carpenter.
According to Carpenter, complaints may be filed via email through the facility’s website or through a “third-party hotline that is available for our residents and their families to submit complaints anonymously, if they wish.”
Complaints can also be submitted through hotlines at the Mississippi State Department of Health or the state attorney general’s office, he wrote. Carpenter also mentioned the ombudsman at the Health Department, who “...serves as a resident advocate responsible for investigating concerns and complaints by residents of long-term care facilities.”
“All of this information and the hotline phone numbers are given to residents and their family members upon admission via our Resident Handbook,” wrote Carpenter. “All of these options are also located on posters displayed throughout our facility.”
Carpenter acknowledged that “...getting through by phone can sometimes be difficult, especially during these times.”
“This is a large facility, and due to required visitation restrictions, we are receiving more calls than ever,” he wrote. “I know it is a difficult time for family members concerned about their loved ones, which is why we have gone above and beyond to communicate with our residents and their approved parties the best we can.”
The nursing home has “set up a call bank,” according to Carpenter, where three nurses “contacted each resident’s approved parties to give them updates regarding the resident’s status.”
“Our nurses were able to contact nearly 100 percent (of affected families); however, a few non-working phone numbers had been provided to us by the families,” he wrote. “We did our best to track down new contact information for those. We also sent out both weekly letters and notifications through our automated messaging system.”
The administrator wrote that video calls were offered, and, in some cases, “socially distanced visits between residents and family members in the courtyard” were available.
Carpenter also addressed sanitation concerns that were mentioned by the Montgomery and Lampley families.
In the previous story, Arnold said sanitation problems “took over the facility” and added that nursing home staff often failed to bathe her brother.
“Although we cannot comment on specific residents, we can confirm that sanitation of our facility meets standards set forth and enforced by the Mississippi State Department of Health,” wrote Carpenter.
Newspaper staff members contacted the Health Department and asked if the nursing home was under any kind of investigation, and, in another story, Liz Sharlot, director of communications for the department, said that there are no disciplinary actions planned for the facility “at this time.” The department also no longer considers the nursing home to have an active outbreak of the virus.
The first positive case of COVID-19 was discovered at the nursing home on April 6, according to comments made by Carpenter for a June 6 story. At that time, he said the facility, which has 152 beds, had a total of 77 residents, and 22 of them had the virus. Five employees were also sick with the virus at that time.
The newspaper first reported on virus cases at the nursing home in a May 14 story. In that story, Kristin James said she had numerous difficulties getting information on the condition of her grandfather, 70-year-old Jimmy Lackey, who had the virus and had been living at the facility for four years.
In a June 5 story, Shaun McAlpin said nursing home officials did not inform him that his 90-year-old grandmother, who is a resident at the facility, had the virus, and he only found out about her condition after she was admitted to Merit Health Wesley.
“However, even before the COVID virus started, we all knew Bedford Care was a horrible place,” he said in that story. “On a scale of 1-10, I’d honestly give it a two, and that’s before COVID. Now, I’d give it a one. They don’t really keep a good eye on patients.”
The nursing home is managed by the Hattiesburg Medical Park Management Corporation, and, the owners of the facility are listed, in ownership information acquired by the newspaper, as Sonya McElroy, Jack Bevon, Stephen Worrel, Nicole Bevon, Michael McElroy and Janet McElroy.
The ownership information also lists Bedford Health Properties, LLC as an owner with 5 percent or greater direct ownership interest. In information on file with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office, that company lists Michael E. McElroy Jr. of Hattiesburg as its registered agent and Michael Eugene McElroy of Hattiesburg as a member.
There are eight Bedford Care Centers in the state.