Local nursing home under inspection after two employees die from COVID-19

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration is inspecting an Indianapolis nursing home following the deaths of two employees from COVID-19.

Wildwood Healthcare Center, 7301 E. 16th St., reported the deaths of two employees to federal OSHA officials last week.

IOSHA spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland confirmed to IBJ on Wednesday that the state has opened a safety compliance inspection to determine whether the deaths of the employees at Wildwood were a result of any workplace safety regulations being violated.

“They look to see was the fatality due to the workplace or was it something outside the workplace?” McFarland said. “Was this due to the workplace? … That’s all unknown right now.”

McFarland said it typically takes 30 to 90 days for the safety inspection to be completed and for state officials to determine whether there were any safety violations.

She said the Wildwood case is the only IOSHA case involving employee deaths related to COVID-19.

The nursing home is owned by Ohio-based CommuniCare, which operates 90 facilities in seven states, including 20 facilities in Indiana.

Fred Stratmann, general counsel and chief compliance and privacy officer for CommuniCare, declined to comment on the deaths other than to say, “It’s a horrible situation. We feel horrible at the loss of our employees.”

Stratmann said employees have been tested company-wide have tested positive, but no other employees have died. He declined to say where those employees who have tested positive work or the exact number of employees who have tested positive.

“It creates a lot of anxiety,” Stratmann said. “We’ve made the decision not to be releasing those numbers.”

But the company is notifying families and residents of positive cases.

“We’re meeting all of our reporting requirements, which includes notifying families and residents,” Stratmann said.

State officials have reported 1,568 positive cases of COVID-19 at 199 long-term care facilities in Indiana and 162 deaths at 74 facilities. The positive cases include 575 staff members and 993 residents.

The death toll at the facilities represents 25% of the 661 reported COVID-19 deaths in Indiana so far.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box has repeatedly declined to provide a breakdown of the number of cases and deaths by facility, even though other states are releasing that information.

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