Nspire Lauderhill designated by state as COVID-19 recovery facility, triggering concerns

LAUDERHILL, FLA. (WSVN) - State health officials have designated a nursing home in Lauderhill as one of several in the state where elderly patients will be sent to recover from COVID-19, drawing concern from the community about the facility where 18 people have already died from the virus.

Nspire Healthcare Lauderhill is now the only location in all of South Florida currently designated as a COVID-only facility. That means nursing home residents with the coronavirus from all over the region could be transferred there, as it now only has COVID patients.

Lauderhill Mayor Ken Thurston on Thursday expressed his concerns about the state’s decision.

“Rather than straightening out the problem, they’re saying, ‘Well, let’s bring all the problems here to this one location,'” he said.

In addition to the 18 COVID-related deaths, Nspire Lauderhill has 22 positive staff members, according to the state.

Family members who have lost loved ones at the facility have spoken to 7News over the past month.

“You have a large number of families being left in the dark. We are not being provided information,” said Carl Young, whose grandmother tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was upset. I’m sad. I didn’t get to see her. She died alone,” said Jessica Bocanegra, whose grandmother died from the virus.

Thurston said he is also worried for first responders,

“It increases the exposure to our firefighters. If it is necessary to take somebody to a hospital, then our firefighters are being exposed. There is additional stress for them,” he said.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said setting up nursing homes dedicated to COVID-19 patients will help stop the spread.

“If you have a resident test positive, and you don’t have the ability to isolate them, you can transfer them to a COVID-positive facility where they have people who are COVID positive, and the risk of spread is not the same as a normal facility,” he said.

The issue came up at last week’s Lauderhill City Commission meeting. All five commissioners voted against allowing Nspire to become a COVID exclusive facility.

However, the state had already made the decision.

“Apparently, this model was OK with the state, even though nobody asked the city about it,” said Thurston.

Miriam Pastor, the president of Nspire Healthcare, released a statement on Thursday afternoon that read:

“Nspire Lauderhill was selected by the state Agency for Health Care Administration as part of a larger initiative to care for only COVID-19 patients, and we are humbled to serve the community in this endeavor. In partnership with local hospitals, the Department of Health and the state agency, our COVID recovery center not only provides a safe place for stable COVID patients to get well before returning to their skilled nursing home, assisted living center, or back into the local community, but it also keeps staff and residents in other facilities safe from the threat of the virus. The stability of our resident population, which is directly correlated to the excellent care that is being provided, has resulted in zero calls to Fire Rescue or the City of Lauderhill since May 14th, a level for which we are committed to maintaining to the best of our ability.”

“They get extra dollars per bed for COVID-positive patients, so it’s an economic advantage for the facility,” said Thurston.

The mayor said he is also upset because the family of residents at the facility who did not have COVID-19 were given very little notice about the state’s designation and were told they had to move out within just days or they would be transferred to a facility in Kendall.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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