I-Team: DHHS investigates nursing home with 24 reported COVID-19 resident deaths


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas nursing home is under investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) after a jump in resident COVID-19 deaths was reported.

Twenty-four residents at The Heights of Summerlin have died from the virus, according to the state.

DHHS’s dashboard revealed a total of 133 COVID-19 cases at the facility, with 76 residents and 57 staff members testing positive.

According to the department, The Heights of Summerlin has a history of deficiencies. The most recent information the I-Team could find is from January, which states several complaints were substantiated, including an incident of employee to resident abuse.

Throughout 2019, there is a long list of additional deficiencies.

We tracked down the company that runs the nursing home: Pennsylvania-based Summit Care.

The I-Team received a lengthy statement from Andrew Reese, the facility’s administrator, saying precautions are being taken, guidelines are being followed, and that they’ve been fully transparent.

Despite the claim of transparency, we found no mention of COVID-19 on The Heights of Summerlin website.

The full statement is as follows:

As you know, this is a rapidly evolving situation – and one that is being played out in communities, hospitals and nursing homes across the country and the world. Despite all of the preventive steps nursing homes are taking, the virus is still making its way into nursing homes across the nation. This is a complex virus that is hard to detect, people can be asymptomatic but positive, and the virus can take weeks to present itself. By the time you have a positive test result, many may have already been exposed, no matter what precautions have been taken.    

That’s why we have been so stringent on visitation restrictions and other precautions across all of our centers – not only following recommended protocols and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but also often getting out in front of them.  Some steps we have taken include: 

– Screening residents and patients for symptoms – three times daily

– Actively screening and taking temperatures of all staff upon building entry 

– Requiring all staff to wear personal protective equipment  

– Visitation restrictions, except for exceptional circumstances, such as end-of-life situations   

– Cancellation of all outside medical appointments except for medically necessary, time-sensitive and life-saving treatments, such as dialysis and chemotherapy 

– To make things easier for families, we have implemented the ability for families and loved ones to perform video conferencing calls using Zoom technology 

– We notified patients, residents and families immediately, and update them via regular video conference calls

We have been fully transparent and forthcoming in sharing information with patients, residents and families. As previously noted, we update them with the latest information via regular video conference calls and we personally communicate with one representative per family. In addition, we are working closely with the Nevada Department of Health (DOH).   

At this time, The Heights of Summerlin has had 90 residents and 48 staff members test positive for COVID-19.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by COVID-19, especially the families of the 18 residents that have passed away. Note, the majority of the 18 residents passed away at local hospitals over the last several weeks.  There is a delay in hospitals reporting that information back to the center. 

At this time, our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our patients, residents and employees.  I can assure you that we are working around the clock, doing everything in our power – and everything medical experts know as of at this time – to protect and keep our patients, residents and employees as healthy and as safe as possible.  

Andrew Reese, administrator of The Heights of Summerlin

The information provided, as far as the number of cases and deaths, is different from what the state is reporting. The Heights is reporting more cases and less deaths.

The I-Team asked for clarification, and a spokeswoman sent the following information, regarding numbers and deficiencies:

Given the discrepancies, we spoke with the epidemiologist that works with the state.  They informed us that there were additional deaths in local hospitals that we were not aware of.  In fact, only one patient passed away within our building.  The remainder passed away at the hospital and we do not always have access to that information.  The state also informed us that the facility’s overall counts will be updated later this evening.

For your question regarding deficiencies, to our knowledge, the center is currently in compliance with state and federal guidelines. 

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services also sent the following statement to 8 News Now, regarding the investigation into The Heights of Summerlin:

The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health currently has an open investigation into The Heights of Summerlin skilled nursing facility in Las Vegas. Since there is an active investigation, further details are limited at this time. Like other states, Nevada has seen challenges in reporting of deaths related to COVID-19. A Technical Bulletin issued on April 8 requires that all medical facilities must report deaths caused by, associated with, or related to COVID-19 to the health authority immediately. That does not appear to be the case with this facility.

To be clear, the tragic deaths among these residents reflected on the Nevada COVID-19 Facilities Dashboard were spread out over a longer period and did not happen in one day. Instead, the facility failed to timely report these patients as residents of their facility. This delayed reporting doesn’t change the overall count in Nevada. The Division has taken swift action to begin an investigation and provide help and care to the residents and staff at this facility.

Nevada Department of Health and Human Services

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