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Questions About Midland Medical Lodge’s Practices Keep Emerging as Coronavirus Continues to Spread in the Facility

By Mitch Borden

Over a month has passed since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at Midland Medical Lodge, but the nursing home is still having trouble containing the spread of the virus. Just this week, Midland Medical Lodge confirmed more new cases of coronavirus among its staff and residents.

Several of the nursing home’s residents confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 were transferred out of the facility to Midland Memorial Hospital last week. As of Wednesday, there are 31 Midland Medical Lodge patients being housed and treated there.

The continual spread of the virus within the nursing home may be putting a hold on Midland Memorial sending patients who are healthy enough back to the facility.

In a statement in mid-April, the City of Midland said the facility’s staff had set up a coronavirus ward after the first cases at Midland Medical Lodge were confirmed. This area was for confirmed COVID-19 patients and for individuals exhibiting symptoms of the disease. 

What began as one administrative worker testing positive for the coronavirus in early April has spiraled into the worst coronavirus cluster in West Texas. About 75% of all the COVID-19 related deaths and over half of all the cases in Midland County are linked to Midland Medical Lodge. 

Since mid-April, 9 elderly Midland Medical Lodge residents have died from complications related to the disease and more than 60 residents and employees have been diagnosed. 

In early May, the state dispatched a rapid response team at the request of Midland Medical Lodge. The team is made up of healthcare professionals whose purpose is to help contain the spread of the outbreak.

Midland Medical Lodge initially told Marfa Public Radio they would move all their confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients to Midland Memorial in early May after the rapid response team’s arrival, but instead moved the majority of those individuals. No clear explanation as to why the patients were transferred was provided initially. 

“The exact mindset there and the decision making there with regard to moving patients to the hospital — we’re not completely aware of that,” is what the hospital’s CEO Russell Meyers initially told the press.

A few days later though, Midland Memorial’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wilson revealed that the patients were transferred and kept at the hospital because the nursing home had not properly quarantined its residents. 

“It was determined by the health department working with the rapid response team that the facility was not completely isolating the infected patients well.” Wilson continued, “So it was in their best interest to clear it out, clean it up, and get the infection under better control.”

Midland Medical Lodge denies this. Dan Marick is the director of operations for Foursquare Healthcare, the parent company of Midland Medical Lodge. He recently addressed the press during a virtual press conference, where he explained nursing home residents diagnosed with COVID-19 had been moved to a ward separating them from their peers at the nursing home. But he did not go into detail about the facility’s quarantine procedures.

Marick also did not give a timeline for when the care facility expects to accept residents back from the hospital. When asked how the facility is working to prevent the virus from passing to residents, Marick said, “We’re working hand in hand with the local health department and the rapid response team.” 

Marick says that Midland Medical Lodge has been thoroughly cleaned, and the state’s rapid response team is assessing Midland Medical Lodge practices. He did not discuss any potential shortfalls related to the facility’s response during this outbreak. He admitted there has been some frustration among the public concerning the nursing home’s response to the coronavirus, but overall the facility has the “overwhelming support” of residents’ families.

The only message Marick had for the relatives of the nine residents who have died because of this outbreak was, “My heart goes out to them and we sincerely are sorry for their loss.”

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.