Leadership at Michigan nursing home told staff not to use PPE amid pandemic, 3 lawsuits claim

Three separate lawsuits have been filed against the Villages of Lapeer (Mich.) Nursing & Rehabilitation, claiming the facility's actions amounted to gross negligence and egregious circumstances, USA Today reports.

Nineteen residents at the 87-bed facility have died of COVID-19 complications, according to data from the Michigan HHS. 

Dennis Williams said his 68-year-old mother, Wanda Parker, died of COVID-19 April 7 after being transported to a hospital from the nursing home. Mr. Williams is now suing the Villages of Lapeer, claiming employees weren't wearing masks, gloves or other personal protective equipment when he saw his mother during a window visit.

Three former employees, all certified nursing assistants, who contracted the virus have also filed lawsuits. They say leadership refused to test residents or staff, didn't let sick employees stay home unless they had a fever, and didn't allow employees to wear masks or PPE during the beginning of the pandemic. One former employee said a mask was ripped off her face by the former nursing director because she was "scaring patients." 

On April 8, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs surveyed the nursing home and found residents to be in "immediate jeopardy" starting March 24. The report found that "the facility failed to follow accepted infection control standards of practice to ensure the appropriate PPE (the use of facial masks) was made available for staff ... resulting in increased COVID-19 cross contamination."

The report also cites an April 9 phone interview in which the previous director of nursing, who has since resigned, said the facility had enough PPE and that she was saving the gear. 

The immediate jeopardy designation was removed April 7 after a video tour and follow-up interviews confirmed staff were wearing PPE.

"Due to the fact that the matters being inquired about are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide comment," the Villages of Lapeer said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. "We can say that The Villages of Lapeer has been and will continue to cooperate with the involved parties. Please be assured that The Villages of Lapeer is committed to continuing to provide high quality care and support to our residents and their families, as well as support for all of our staff during these challenging times."

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