State showed no COVID-19 cases for Pittsfield nursing home. Facility told families something else.
PITTSFIELD — Though state reports showed a Pittsfield nursing home had no COVID-19 cases, Springside Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center told residents' families something else.
The coronavirus had infected people in the facility.
The discrepancy suggests that despite daily and weekly statistics provided by the state Department of Public Health, it can be hard for families to monitor outbreaks of a virus that as of Monday had killed at least 5,504 people in long-term care facilities.
The most recent DPH report on cases in nursing homes did not show any infections at Springside, located at 225 Lebanon Ave. in Pittsfield.
But in a robocall to families in July, a Springside official said testing had revealed four cases of COVID-19 at the facility, including one staff member.
Carolyn Villanova, whose 97-year-old mother has lived at Springside for two years, said the voice on the recorded message was that of Christina Pringle, the home's administrator.
A DPH spokeswoman said the next weekly summary on cases in long-term care centers, due Wednesday, will list the COVID-19 cases at Springside.
It's unclear how the discrepancy occurred — and persisted.
Villanova said in an interview she doesn't remember the date when the robocall from Springside came in, but later noticed that the home continued to be listed as virus-free in state reports summarized in The Eagle's daily column, The Checkup.
BaneCare, which owns Springside and Craneville Place in Dalton, issued a press release in early May announcing that all residents at both facilities tested negative at the time for the virus. In it, Pringle expressed pride at the lack of cases in her 115-bed facility.
"Our goal is to remain transparent and in constant contact with CMS, DPH and CDC as guidance to nursing homes can change on a daily basis," Pringle said in the release, referring to state and federal public health agencies.
After speaking with Villanova, The Eagle reviewed DPH's Weekly Public Health Reports dating back to June 3. The paper found that Springside was listed as having zero cases, including in the most recent report that came out July 29.
The Eagle also reviewed all Chapter 93 Elder Facilities Daily Reports that have been published since July 8, when the state first started publishing them as separate documents.
These reports are compiled using data provided by the facilities themselves through REDCap, a web-based data collection service. Each report consists of four datasets: resident cases, resident deaths, staff cases and staff deaths.
A question that appears on all four datasets every day reads: "Facility ever had cases of COVID-19 among residents or staff?" On every day but three, Springside is marked as "never any cases."
On the July 15 report, Springside's answer to a question about cumulative infections on the staff cases page is blank, but total staff cases are marked as between one and four. Three days later, on the July 18 report, Springside's answer to cumulative cases, on the resident cases page, is blank. But total resident cases are marked as between one and four.
On the July 29 report, Springside is marked as "facility has had cases, no resident cases reported" on pages about resident cases. But the report also says employees were not affected. "Facility has had cases, no staff cases reported" is marked on pages regarding staff cases.
A spot check of other facilities on the list revealed that this inconsistency is not unique to Springside.
"I did double check with a Data Analyst from DPH to be sure that Redcap does have the cases that were reported," Pringle wrote in an email, in response to questions.
Pringle said she has email confirmation from a data analyst at the DPH confirming the cases were reported. She did not respond to requests to share that email with The Eagle. She couldn't be reached to clarify the timeline of events.
A DPH spokeswoman said she confirmed with the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences that Springside had reported the cases. The spokeswoman could not be reached to explain why the Springside cases were not included in earlier reports.
Caroline White can be reached at email@example.com or at (563)-513-1065.
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