Family members of two former residents at Bedford Care Center of Hattiesburg are calling on state authorities to permanently shutter the nursing home, which has reported 25 total resident deaths from COVID-19.
Angelean Montgomery moved into the facility in November 2018 and remained a patient there until her death from complications of the virus at age 84 on May 6.
Her daughters, Debbie Hinton and Linda Carroll, said that negligence by nursing home officials played a role in their mother’s death.
“I say they weren’t doing all they could for these patients,” said Carroll. “They were too lax. They don’t care about the people enough.”
She said she believes facility officials failed to quickly isolate sick patients, and that failure led to the spread of the highly contagious virus. She said she also believes officials failed to adequately screen employees for symptoms before they reported to work.
“Somebody brought the virus to the residents,” said Carroll. “These patients that have it ... somebody brought this stuff to them because they couldn’t go outside and get it.”
The sisters said they experienced a pattern of problems with nursing home staff members throughout their mother’s stay, including a lack of communication, high staff turnover rates and poor treatment of patients.
Hinton, who lives in California, said it was always a challenge to speak to her mother by phone.
“I would have to be tenacious, diligent, everything ... just to get through on a daily basis,” she said. “I would call like five times ... and get transferred from station to station. It’s almost like, when they saw my number, they would hang up. You could hear them laughing in the background. They may put me through, or they may not put me through.”
She added that staff turnover was high, particularly with certified nursing assistants.
“You did see a turnover in CNAs,” she said. “I don’t feel like they were ever understaffed, though. They had the people. It’s just that ... they don’t care. They’re just there for the paycheck, and they treated the people poorly.”
Carroll said she frequently visited her mother, and on those trips, she heard the nursing staff make unkind remarks about residents.
“I’ve heard CNAs talk about patients. One patient ... said she fell out of the bed,” she said. “One CNA said, ‘I’m not going back down there,’ and another said, ‘...she can just stay on the floor, then.’ That’s some of the things I heard them say about a patient. That shouldn’t happen.”
Hinton said she once visited the facility and found her mother asleep on the floor and wearing soiled clothing.
“I went to see the nurses ... and they came scrambling in there, like four or five nurses,” she said. “They said, ‘oh, I don’t know how that happened, because we were just in her room,’ which just wasn’t true. I could see that wasn’t true.”
The sisters said the communication problems at the facility worsened during the pandemic in mid-April, and they were unable to reach their mother for days at a time.
“I couldn’t get anybody on the phone. Nobody would answer the phone, and I couldn’t talk to her,” said Carroll. “When I finally reached the staff, they said my mom was doing good, but later, they called me and told me they’re rushing her to the hospital.”
Hinton spoke to nursing home staff members on May 1 and was told her mother “was doing fine ... and that she was in bed watching TV.”
“One hour later, my sister received a call from Bedford Care stating that my mother was being taken to the hospital because she had a slight fever and a 400-plus sugar level,” she added. “The doctor at the hospital tested her for COVID-19, and she tested positive. She died on May 6.”
Hinton said both she and her sister reported their problems to facility administrators, but they never received responses or a resolution to their complaints.
“I really hope the state shuts them down,” she added. “They don’t deserve to be open. When you walk into Bedford Care, they have all these awards in closed cases ... and those awards supposedly show that they’re the best of the best. If you look at the awards, you assume it’s a good place. Those awards mean nothing, though.”
Renee Arnold said she experienced many of the same problems faced by the sisters. Her brother, 65-year-old Willie Lampley, was a resident at the nursing home for more than 10 years, and he was also diagnosed with the virus. He has since recovered and is now living in an assisted living facility on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“At Bedford, we had given my brother a phone, and whenever we couldn’t reach him, I’d call the nurses ... and ask them to get him to call us,” she said. “We had a friend who worked there, and she told us things were getting bad. That’s when I started trying to reach him by phone, and he would never answer it.”
Arnold, who lives in Texas, said she tried to reach her brother for more than a week with no success. She eventually threatened to call the police to perform a welfare check on him, and facility officials then informed her that he had a slight fever. He tested positive for the virus and was moved to the facility’s rehab center, “which they had turned into the COVID station,” she said.
She said the nursing home attempted to transfer her ailing brother to Forrest General on three occasions, but the hospital “rejected him ... all three times.” She attributed the rejections to the overflow of positive virus patients from the nursing home to the hospital. Her brother was eventually admitted to Merit Health Wesley.
“We were determined that my brother was not going to be a statistic, and we weren’t going to lose him,” said Arnold. “If I had left him where he was, he would have been a statistic that died. Under no circumstances ... would we have sent him back to Bedford.”
She said her family noted several problems with the nursing home prior to the pandemic, and one of them involved sanitation and the cleanliness of the facility.
“I would walk in that place ... and all I could smell was urine,” she said. “My brother would say they haven’t bathed him in several days. We would have to call down there constantly to ask them to bathe him.”
Arnold said those sanitation problems “took over the facility.”
“They got lax,” she said. “I could see that in the way my brother was treated. We have often said that if we – my sister and I – weren’t so involved in our brother’s care and life ... things would have been much worse on him. It snowballed into a disaster ... with him living there. We were planning on taking him out of there anyway, before he got sick.”
She added that the facility is in need of a major overhaul and immediate intervention from the state.
“The state needs to just totally clean it out and take the patients somewhere else,” she said. “All of my brother’s friends in that facility have passed because of COVID-19. I wish the Health Department would come in and close it down ... and get the people in a better facility. It needs to be changed from management on down, because I don’t think they care.”
Nursing homes in Mississippi are licensed through the Division of Health Facilities Licensure and Certification, which is a unit of the Health Department. The PineBelt NEWS has requested more information on the outbreak at the nursing home, and officials said Monday they are working to process the request.