Former nursing home resident says some workers don’t wear masks; facility says violation could lead to termination

FOX Files

GRANITE CITY, Ill. – A former nursing home resident says some employees at a Madison County facility refuse to wear masks. The facility counters that claim, saying it continually trains and retrains employees on the proper use of PPE and may terminate those who don’t follow protocol.

The debate is at Stearns Nursing & Rehab in Granite City. It’s a facility that made a remarkable turnaround, as FOX 2 reported this past October. Stearns went from 100 positive COVID cases and 20 deaths to zero cases. A former resident at Stearns says she captured videos of employees not wearing masks or taking other safety precautions.

“All of it’s shocking,” said Deborah Woods. “In the middle of a pandemic, where literally half the staff are not wearing masks?”

Woods says she was at Stearns from Sept. 22 until last Friday. She’s younger than many of the residents because she was here for rehab. She noticed many workers weren’t wearing masks and says she warned management.

“I kept verbally telling her, ‘People are not wearing masks,’ ‘People are not using hand sanitizer,’ there’s lots of lapses in sanitizing protocol here that I’m noticing, and ‘Can you work with me?’” she said. “’Can you help me?’ because it happens mostly second and third shift when there’s no management and so her initial interaction with verbal interactions was like, ‘Well, that doesn’t happen here.’”

Woods claims she captured video evidence and sent it to state inspectors. The Illinois Department of Public Health told FOX 2, “IDPH exited the facility on Friday. It will be at least two weeks before the report is finalized and available. Any deficiencies cited or issues found are to be corrected immediately.”

Stearns nursing and rehab also responded, saying, “(We have) not had a COVID-positive resident since August 28, 2020, despite the recent spikes around the country, including a recent spike in Madison County, Illinois. This is a testament to Stearns’ compliance with the measures identified by authorities to prevent the spread of the novel virus, and speaks to why authorities have since that time deemed the facility to be in substantial compliance with pertinent regulations and have found no deficiency in Stearns’ infection control protocols. The facility continues to do its best to combat COVID-19 and prevent spread to our residents. Stearns cannot comment on the care provided to any specific resident given state and federal privacy laws.”

Stearns also responded strongly to the accusation involving masks: “All staff are trained and re-trained to wear PPE at all times, and any failure to do so is promptly addressed via retraining and/or corrective action, as warranted. Stearns takes any and all breaches from protocol very seriously and investigates them accordingly. If the facility investigation reveals a breach from protocol, corrective action will be initiated, up to and including termination.”

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