Staff No-Show Forces Evacuation At Riverside Nursing Home. What Went Wrong?

More than 50 ambulances took patients from the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center to other facilities on April 8, 2020. (Screenshot of video from Riverside University Health System)

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Eighty-three patients at the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside County were evacuated Wednesday after much of the staff failed to show up for two days. The county's top public health official said it could be a case of patient abandonment, likely related to a coronavirus outbreak at the nursing home.

"Nationwide, all of our health care workers are considered heroes and they rightly are. ... But implicit in that heroism is that people stay at their posts," Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said in a news conference.

"I am concerned that this could rise to the level of abandonment no matter how justified their reasoning might be," he said of the absent nursing home workers.

Kaiser said it would be up to the state licensing board to investigate the incident.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Kaiser said an outbreak of COVID-19 was discovered last week at the adjacent Magnolia Extended Care Hospital. Then, on April 3, two employees of the Magnolia nursing home also tested positive.

On April 4, all 82 nursing home residents present at the time and 153 staff members were tested for COVID-19, Kaiser said. Thus far, 34 residents and 16 staff members have tested positive.

Soon after testing, the staffing problems began. On Monday, Kaiser said, Magnolia asked for a large number of fill-in staff, and on Tuesday just one out of 13 certified nursing assistants showed up for work, along with other absences.

The Riverside University Health System and Kaiser Permanente teamed up and sent 33 nurses to fill in. But by Wednesday morning, there weren't enough substitutes available and Kaiser, the public health officer, ordered the nursing home evacuated.


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WHERE ARE THE RESIDENTS NOW?

By 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 55 patients had been transported out of the nursing home, according to Bruce Barton, director of the county's emergency management department. Here's where they went:

  • 15 to Manor Care Nursing Facility in Palm Desert
  • 5 to local hospitals
  • 7 to Riverside University Health System Medical Center (with 15 total expected to be taken there, at least temporarily)
  • 28 to the federal medical station recently set up at the county fairgrounds in Indio

One patient died in hospice of underlying conditions before they could be transported to another facility, according to Kaiser, the public health officer.

The remaining residents were still waiting to be taken to other facilities on Wednesday evening.

Barton made a plea to doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to care for patients with COVID-19. "We are in immediate need to help care for our most vulnerable patients," he said, adding that those who step up would be paid, get full protective gear and malpractice insurance.

"If you want to know what you can do Riverside County, that's what you can do to help us out with this."

Medical and non-medical volunteers can sign up on the county's website.

Family members of residents of the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center can call the county hotline, 951-358-5134, for updates.

Jill Replogle contributed to this report.

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