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Federal Data Showing COVID-19 Tolls In Kansas And Missouri Nursing Homes Has Major Inconsistencies

Brighton Gardens Senior Living Center in Prairie Village, Kansas.
Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
New federal data show Brighton Gardens in Prairie Village, Kansas, has had a total of five confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents, despite reports of at least 83 cases.

Quality care advocates and some nursing home operators agree the new federal data is confusing and misleading.

The federal government on Thursday issued new data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes, including the numbers in individual facilities.

The Nursing Home COVID-19 Public File data, which was first presented earlier in the week, shows hundreds of cases and deaths among nursing home residents in Kansas and Missouri — but its updates show significant inconsistencies and omissions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began to require nursing homes to report cases and deaths to the federal government starting in May as part of a transparency effort.

The move was applauded by nursing home advocates, including Marjorie Moore, executive director of Voyce, a nursing home quality care advocacy organization based in St. Louis.

“For Missourians, this is really important, because our state still has not released any facility-level data,” Moore says.

The CMS data showed on Thursday that nursing homes in Missouri had reported 1,100 COVID-19 cases and 253 deaths as of May 31, and homes in Kansas had reported 176 cases and 50 deaths.

However, these fatality counts are less than that the totals reported earlier in the week: 309 for Missouri and 189 for Kansas.

It appears to Moore that many nursing homes had incorrectly entered data into the government reporting tool.

“It looks like there may be some confusion from the nursing homes about what to report where,” she says.

The CMS data also show fewer COVID-19 cases in many facilities than had previously been documented.

For example, Brighton Gardens, in Prairie Village, Kansas, has had a total of 93 cases and 19 COVID-19 deaths, according the Johnson County health department.

However, the CMS data show it reported a total of 5 confirmed cases and 3 deaths among residents to CMS for the period between January 1 and May 31.

Riverbend Post-Acute Rehabilitation, in Kansas City, Kansas, where 132 cases have been discovered, according to Wyandotte County, reported a total of 96 cases to CMS, according to the data.

Neither Riverbend Post-Acute Rehabilitation nor Sunrise Senior Living Management, Inc., a Virginia-based company which operates Brighton Gardens, responded to inquiries from KCUR on Friday.

Life Care Center in Kansas City, Kansas, reported a total of 22 resident and 13 staff cases and zero deaths to CMS, even though the Wyandotte County health department has reported 43 cases associated with the facility.

Heidi Pino, a spokesperson for the Tennessee-based Life Care Center, which operates nursing homes throughout the country, said on Friday that much of the data reported by CMS was inaccurate and that the company was in the process of correcting it.

Marjorie Moore said some of the inconsistencies may also be due to part to CMS rules that don’t required nursing homes to report cases that were discovered prior to early May.

However, in other cases, some nursing homes appear to have simply not reported cases data at all.

Nationally, about 12% of nursing have not submitted data.

Moore says her staff has discovered several facilities with documented cases that did not report them.

“That included at least five that we know of just off the top of our heads that we do know that have had COVID cases in them in during this time period,” Moore says.

CMS administrator Seema Verma acknowledged to reporters on Thursday that the new data likely contained inaccuracies.

“As with any new program, some facilities are going to struggle as they come on line, and there’s going to be honest errors in data entry,” Verma said.

The data also show many cases and deaths that had previously not been reported.

McCrite Plaza at Briarcliff in Kansas City, Missouri, was the center of a small outbreak in early May, when Mayor Quinton Lucas said that seven residents had tested positive, and 80 more would be tested.

The CMS data show that a total of 18 residents tested positive as of May 31, including four in the final week of the month. Four deaths were also reported for that week.

McCrite director Cassidy McCrite, however, disputed the numbers on Friday, claiming that 16 residents had tested positive and three had died after contracting the virus. He said he was unsure why the CMS number were higher.

Mitzi McFatrich, executive director for Kansas Advocates For Better Care, said on Friday that the data did not provide the kind of resource that was needed to inform the public.

“Obviously, COVID-19 is incredibly dangerous for older adults,” McFatrich said. “And so having transparent, easy-to-use, consumer-friendly information about COVID in our state is really important, and we don’t yet have that at the state level or at the federal level.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained names of facilities in St. Louis that an advocacy group had identified as having COVID-19 cases. Those facilities' names have been removed due to limited official data about the cases.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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