By Dave Savini

CHICAGO (CBS) — Public health investigators are now looking into an outbreak at the Bridgeview Health Care Center. This comes after a weeklong CBS investigation and a daughter fighting for her mom.

A year ago Visitation Barnaby broke a hip and need medical care. She ultimately ended up at the nursing and rehab facility in Bridgeview, which has seen an explosion in COVID-19 with 31 positive cases and 13 deaths.

Julie Berkowicz, of Naperville, says her mother was in that facility for about 100 days. She says her mom’s stay there lacked transparency, and after the facility went on lockdown in March, she could hardly get any information about her mom. She says the facility posted a video of crews cleaning the place on its website, but she says she didn’t even get contacted about any of the deaths. She found out from seeing it in the news.

“This is my mother,” she said. “I would like to know what is going on there. There’s no communication.”

She says there were no landline phones in her mother’s room, and it would take five to six days to get staff to call her back when she checked on her.

“We are failing our most vulnerable population,” she said.

She says another problem is the handling of so-called isolation rooms. With numerous COVID-19 deaths being reported, her mother was supposed to be in isolation on the third floor, but her mother told her at one point there was another resident she didn’t know put in the bed next to her.

How can you be isolation with another person in your room?

“That’s what I asked them, and then they quit talking to me,” Berkowicz said.

She also wants to know if any of the other residents in 100-plus bed facility were tested other than the people who got sick or died, especially since eight staff members also tested positive.

“I believe everybody in the facility should be tested,” she said.

And then on Tuesday of this week her mother was suddenly discharged. Barnaby’s 84-year-old husband was in the car to meet his wife of 60 years and take her to their home. It was then that Berkowicz had finally learned from the staff that her mother was never tested for COVID-19 despite the outbreak and was cleared to leave anyway.

“They told me that she had not been tested. How can you take my mother out of this facility and put her in the car with my father? You are putting my father’s life at risk,” she said.

Officials for the home say they have been asking for tests and finally got 20 tests from the state last week. They won’t talk about why this woman was released without being tested.

The county health department says its investigator is providing the home with guidance, including information about how to order private test kits. They say the corporate office is aware and working to implement additional infection control procedures.

Below is a full Q&A with a Bridgeview Health Care Center Administrator:

1.) Are the below figures the most accurate and up to date COVID 19 testing results/information of known cases at your facility? This should include residents transferred for COVID symptoms that ultimately tested positive elsewhere: 31 positive cases, 23 residents, 8 staff, 11 deaths

Regarding positive cases of employees, we have eight staff test positive with Covid-19.  It is with a heavy heart that we report that we have had 13 residents pass away due to COVID-19.   Many of these residents were beloved long-term residents, and it has been extremely difficult for the staff, as these residents were loved and cared for by our staff for many years.   We have had 25 residents test positive with COVID.   We are in constant contact with the Cook County Health Department and IDPH regarding our positive cases.

Are any of the 12 remaining infected residents on ventilators at hospitals?

Due to HIPAA regulations, we cannot disclose this information. 

2.) How many total residents are there in the facility, and how many have been tested? If some were tested onsite, how many tests were performed there?

Bridgeview Health Care Center has been asking for tests since the end of March 2020 to deal with COVID-19 at our facility.  The resources were not made available until this past week to be able to request testing.  IDPH determines the number of tests that Bridgeview Health Care Center can have access to.  We can only merely request tests, and they identify a number based on our needs.   We received 20 tests that allowed us to test our 18 presumed positive patients to get a definitive answer on if they are negative or positive with COVID-19.  We are currently awaiting those test results from IDPH.

3.) Have you received any of the state’s 18,000 test kits/swabs sent on April 19th to 68 LTC facilities?

As of April 21st, Bridgeview Healthcare Center was able to submit a request to IDPH for testing. We received the 20 tests late last week.  After consulting with Cook County Health Department on who should have the  20 tests administered, we then tested the 18 presumed positive residents this week and are awaiting testing results.  

4.) What are your isolation room procedures? Can two people be put in isolation together even if they are not COVID-19 positive or showing symptoms?

We follow IDPH guidelines on Cohorting.

5.) Are any of the rooms at Bridgeview negative pressure rooms?

No. Long term care is not required to have negative air pressure rooms

6.) How many COVID-positive residents are currently there, and where are they being housed? A particular floor or wing?

We currently have 10 positive COVID residents in house and we have 18 residents that are presumed positive pending test results. Residents in isolation for COVID or those who are presumed positive are placed on a designated floor.  

7.) Was an 83-year-old patient/resident released this week without a COVID test ?

We can confirm that an 83-year-old afebrile resident discharged home this week.  The 83-year-old former resident was not in COVID-19 related isolation during their stay. The 83-year-old’s non-COVID isolation was discontinued prior to discharge based on CDC and IDPH infection control guidelines. A detailed plan of care was provided to the former resident, who is able to make their own decisions, and the resident’s appointed Healthcare Power of Attorney. Both were in agreement with the discharge and agreed with the transfer home. We have since been in communication with the former resident’s appointed Healthcare Power of Attorney post-discharge for a follow-up phone call, and we can confirm the former resident & POA are satisfied with discharge & the care that was received while at Bridgeview Health Care Center. 

8.). Have any outside patients been transferred in since the March lockdown? This could be for any reason, like for rehab or any kind of resident admittance for LTC or STC; and if so – how many? Likewise, have any untested patients been transferred out or released since the March lockdown?

All transfers out of facility to the hospital were untested, as instructed by the Health Department.   When one of our symptomatic residents clinically requires hospitalization or acute care, they then transfer to the hospital.   The hospital determined whether to test for COVID-19.  We were instructed by IDPH & local health department not to send residents to the hospital for just testing alone.  The resident needed to meet transfer clinical acute care requirements and didn’t at the time.

9.) In light of the investigator assigned to the matter at BHCC, and based on the below quote from the Cook Co Dept of Health, what new protocols and procedures are under review/discussion for implementation?

“CCDPH has been in communication with Bridgeview Healthcare Center’s director of nursing and administration. An IDPH-deployed consultant is working with us. Guidance, including information about how to order test kits from the state or private labs, has been provided. The facility’s corporate office is aware and working to implement additional infection control protocols and procedures to protect the health of residents and staff.”

We are not aware of any investigation. Again, we are in constant contact with the Cook County Health Department and IDPH regarding our positive cases.  We closely follow the recommendations of Cook County Health Department, IDPH and CDC  

10.) Who tested James Zbonski for COVID 19, Bridgeview Health or the treating hospital where he died ? If he was not tested at your facility, why wasn’t he?

COVID tests were not available to long-term care facilities at that time.

11.) Finally, we saw 3 people standing outside the facility door with no masks on; smoking and talking without social distancing before going back inside the facility. What is policy for staff regarding social distancing and PPE in this kind of situation?

We are unaware of these individuals and do not know if  they were Bridgeview employees. We require masks while inside the facility and follow IDPH guidelines concerning PPE.  As a general rule, whenever our staff come back into the facility they must complete hand hygiene, put on a mask and put on additional PPE based on infection control guidelines.