CHICAGO (CBS) — We’ve heard about so many nursing homes hit hard by COVID-19.
One Chicago woman said she had no idea her mother’s facility even had any cases, until she got a call that her mom had tested positive. Then she found out that a staff member there had tested positive weeks earlier.
As CBS 2 Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, the facility has new owners with a troubling past.
Paul House, at 3800 N. California Ave. in the Irving Park community, was sold late last year. The former resident’s daughter said that is when problems began.
Now she has taken her concerns to the state.
“Right now, we’re just trying to relieve the trauma she’s just experiencing all the time,” said Vanessa Mathai.
Mathai’s 75-year-old mother is now home with her. Mathai took her mother out of Paul House last week, over serious concerns about her treatment and care there.
“She was covered in feces. Her clothes were tattered,” Mathai said.
Mathai said her mom, Sondra Pittman, has Alzheimer’s and had been a resident at Paul House since 2018. When she moved in, it was St. Paul’s House, and Mathai said the care was wonderful.
But then, on Jan. 1, the nonprofit facility was taken over by the for-profit Nivram Management.
“We were never informed of this information,” Mathai said.
Mathai reached out to the new director, asking for the home’s policies and staffing ratio. And then in March, she asked about COVID-19 protocol, but said she was ignored.
At that time, Paul House reported no COVID-19 cases. But on April 23, a staffer called, saying her mom bad tested positive.
That is when Mathai contacted the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“Two days later, then, they showed up,” Mathai said, adding that there was a “absolutely” lack of reporting of COVID-19 cases.
A former employee who did not want to be identified told Kozlov, “It is just alarming, the things that are not being done there.”
The former employee said those things included the executive director refusing to give staff face masks in March – even though she had them.
“Had she done it prior, she might have helped the spread that is now in there,” the former employee said.
North Side state Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) said she is on the case.
“I have already reached out to the Illinois Department of Public Health, as well as the Chicago Department of Public Health,” Williams said.
Williams is concerned not only about the lack of communication, but also about owner Marvin Mermelstein’s past.
In 2005, Mermelstein and his wife agreed to suspend and surrender their license after an investigation found serious safety and staffing problems inside Emerald Park Health Care Center in Evergreen Park, which they owned.
“Here’s the frustrating thing – if this was normal times, I’d go in there like, ‘I’d like a tour right now. But now, and who’s holding them accountable?” Williams said.
The IDPH sent Mathai a letter confirming they have received her complaint. A department representative said they couldn’t comment.
Kozlov also spoke directly with Paul House’s executive director, asking for her comment and a way to reach the owners for comment as well.
She said she would pass the message along, but no one ever called back.
According to the latest information from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Paul House as of Monday night had 26 COVID-19 cases and two deaths.