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Long-term care leaders worry about issues at facilities as COVID-19 cases climb

The numbers worsened this week in Dallas County as Brentwood Place reported five new deaths from COVID-19, bringing their total to more than 50 cases and six deaths.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that no deaths have occurred at DSSLC. It initially said there were four.

The problems continue at long-term care facilities in Dallas County, which have reported seven deaths at two facilities alone.

Leaders in long-term care say the lack of personal protective equipment and the staff-to-resident ratio doesn't help the situation in a disease outbreak. Staff members who become infected are also forced to stay home, leading to more staffing issues.

This week, the numbers worsened as Brentwood Place off Buckner Boulevard reported five new deaths from COVID-19, bringing their total to more than 50 cases and six deaths. 

Brentwood Place has the most cases of any facility in Dallas County, followed by Skyline in Oakcliff, which has more than 40 cases and one death.

“When we see maybe a few cases in a facility I don’t know that that is necessarily an indicator that there’s been a failure of infection control practices within that facility necessarily, but certainly in facilities where we are seeing widespread cases I think that probably is an indicator,” said Suzanna Sulfstede, long-term care ombudsman program director at Senior Source.

Sulfstede said she has heard of a shortage in personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.

“While nursing homes and assisted living facilities are prioritized to receive these supplies, many of them are still faced with shortages, and in some instances are having to re-use gloves and masks," Sulfstede said. "That certainly does not help with infection control."

Another major issue that facilities are facing is staffing challenges. According to Medicare.gov, Brentwood Place has a one-star rating for staffing, the lowest possible score. Brentwood Place did not respond to WFAA for comment.

“If our staffing ratios don’t improve, our care is never going to improve and when a pandemic hits it’s going to hit hard, fast, and awful,” said Marjorie Sullivan, former Director of Texas Advocates for Senior Care. “But when you are running a staffing ratio of Skyline and Brentwood and a few of the other places, there’s no way they can protect their patients it’s just not possible.”

Texas Health Officials say there have been at least 70 nursing home deaths statewide, with reported cases at nearly 200 nursing facilities.

In Denton County, the Denton State Supported Living Center has a total of 54 COVID-19 cases. 

In Tarrant County, one positive case of coronavirus was reported at James L. West Center for Dementia Care.

Sulfstede said it is our obligation to ensure the safety of seniors. 

“I feel wholeheartedly that it is our responsibility to protect them and to look out for them and do everything that we can do to ensure they are safe,” Sulfstede said.

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