COVID-19 strikes more long-term care homes

Margaret McCullum died of Covid-19 in the Kansas Christian Home in November.

By Mary Clarkin
The coronavirus pandemic has reached at least 46 federally licensed long-term care homes in the Wichita area, causing or contributing to 113 deaths, according to records of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The 46 homes, located in Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties, had at least one resident and/or staff member with a confirmed positive test for COVID-19. That’s all or nearly all of the homes that accept Medicaid and/or Medicare.
The CMS records show a surge in resident deaths during November. For instance, the Catholic Care Center in Bel Aire did not show any COVID-19 deaths in its reports to the CMS until November. By Nov. 29, it had reported 15 deaths, making it the deadliest cluster among facilities in Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties to date. Previously, Clearwater Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Meridian Rehabilitation and Health Care Center and Cheney Golden Age Home had experienced the most deaths, with 12, 13 and 13, respectively.
Jennifer Sanders, director of marketing/clinical liaison at the Catholic Care Center, said the number may be adjusted downward in the future because some who died were COVID-recovered but succumbed to pre-existing conditions.
Sanders said the escalation occurred as Sedgwick County saw its positivity rate from COVID-19 tests soar. In September, the rolling 14-day average of positive tests in Sedgwick County dipped to 5 percent, but in November it rose to 23.3 percent.
When case numbers jump in Sedgwick County, that’s going to happen in retirement communities as well, she said. 
Catholic Care Center’s Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director Cindy LaFleur said the center has “worked tirelessly to best protect and care for our residents.” 
“We have increased our already stringent protocols for infection control and decontamination,” LaFleur said in a statement, and the center also passed four COVID-focused infection control surveys without deficiencies, she said.
Other facilities that escaped COVID-related resident deaths until November included Derby Health and Rehabilitation, which reported six deaths that month; Asbury Park, Newton, and Regent Park, Wichita, each reporting three deaths; LakePoint Augusta and Orchard Gardens, Wichita, two deaths; and Life Care Center of Andover, one death. Newton Presbyterian Manor reported one death in August and seven more deaths in November.  
The Kansas Christian Home, Newton, reported its first two deaths in November. One of those who died was Margaret McCullum, 77, a former teacher and minister who moved back to this area to be closer to family. The main reason she chose the Kansas Christian Home, Newton, is because her parents had retired there, according to her sister, Marie Krehbiel, Wichita.  
This fall, McCullum had a bad cough that she attributed to allergies, Krehbiel said. After it worsened, a test revealed she had COVID-19. She was in the intensive care unit for four days at the hospital in Newton while having trouble breathing, Krehbiel said. 
About 12 hours after she returned to the Kansas Christian Home, she died, Krehbiel said.
Krehbiel learned of her sister’s death in a 3 a.m. phone call. The news shocked the family. 
“We thought she was getting better,” Krehbiel said.
McCullum died Nov. 24, but talking about the death more than two weeks later, Krehbiel said “it still seems new.”
“It’s been hard to adjust to that she’s not going to be here anymore,” Krehbiel said. 
As of Dec. 11, the state’s death toll from COVID-19 stood at 2,072, with more than 85 percent of the victims age 65 or older. Statewide, 478 long-term care facility clusters accounted for 873 deaths.
Sedgwick County’s death count stood at 199 as of Dec. 11. More than half of those who died lived in long-term care or adult care facilities. There is some discrepancy between CMS records and information previously released by the county. The Sedgwick County Health Department stopped releasing updated death reports for those facilities in October.
Harvey County had 19 overall deaths posted as of Dec. 11, and Butler County 16 deaths. Butler County Health Department Administrator Jamie Downs said seven deaths there, as of Dec. 7, were associated with long-term care facilities, but she would not identify them.
The 46 federally-licensed facilities in Sedgwick, Harvey, and Butler counties showed a combined 113 deaths as of the week ending Nov. 29, the most recent report available. That data does not include non-Medicare/Medicaid facilities licensed through the state. Sedgwick County previously reported deaths at some of those facilities, too, including seven at Chisholm Place Memory Center and three at New Home Life Plus.
Contact Mary Clarkin at mary.e.clarkin@gmail.com.

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