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4 Dead, 37 Positive Cases Of COVID-19 Clustered At Kansas City, Kansas, Rehabilitation Facility

Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation is at 7850 Freeman Ave. in Kansas City, Kansas.

Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation, a health care facility in Kansas City, Kansas, reported an increase in a COVID-19 outbreak on Monday, with four deaths and 37 people testing positive for the virus.

Of those testing positive, 33 are residents and four are staff workers, said Janell Friesen, Unified Government Public Health Department spokeswoman. It’s a significant rise since Friday, when officials reported 19 cases.

“The investigations around Riverbend are still ongoing,” said Friesen, who didn’t add more information.

The outbreak is a part of an uptick of cases in Wyandotte County, which now has 186, according to state figures

A call seeking comment to Riverbend’s executive director, Cory Schulte, was not returned.

Riverbend is owned by Big Blue Healthcare, Inc., a subsidiary of Ensign Group, Inc., a Southern California company that owns more than 250 assisted living, skilled nursing, and rehabilitative care facilities in the U.S.

Under the Big Blue name, Riverbend was cited by Medicare this year as below average on health inspections, staffing and quality of patient care and was fined once during the last three years.

According to a Medicare inspection done in January, Riverbend was cited when a staffer incorrectly treated a resident’s open wound in a common room in view of other residents on January 8, then dumped the infected dressings in a nearby trash can, which is against protocol. The nursing staffer also failed to order a wound culture to identify the resident’s infection, the inspection report said.

“Based on observation, record review, and interview, the facility failed to provide a sanitary environment to help prevent the development and transmission of infections for one of four residents reviewed for pressure ulcers,” the report read.

The facility had the problem corrected within 15 days, according to the report.

In a statement posted on the company’s site on Friday, Schulte wrote that the facility is using several interventions, including universal masking, protective personal equipment for workers interacting with COVID-suspected residents, and screening of workers and medical personnel before entering the building. Riverbend has been limiting visitors since mid-March, he wrote.

“While the Facility has always had a comprehensive infection prevention program in place, we escalated our interventions early in the month of March when news of the coronavirus began circulating,” he wrote.

Peggy Lowe is an investigative reporter at KCUR and the Marketplace hub reporter. She's on Twitter at @peggyllowe.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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