North Carolina care facility accused of not informing veteran’s family of COVID-19 diagnosis

Coronavirus

CORNELIUS, N.C. (WJZY) — A Mecklenburg County care facility, identified as having an outbreak of COVID-19, is accused of not informing an elderly veteran’s family of his positive diagnosis until he was being rushed to the hospital.

“I’m worried,” said Kelly Wimmer. “I’m sad, you know, he might die from this.”

Three ways ago the family of Korean War veteran Sanford Hummel, 88, fought to keep him at Autumn Care of Cornelius. In the middle of a pandemic, sheltering in place seemed safer than trying to move him.

The facility had tried to kick Hummel out over a Medicare payment dispute, the family said, prompting Sen. Thom Tillis’ office to get involved. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed the best course of action was for Hummel to stay 100 days.

That was before any COVID-19 cases were reported there. As we’ve seen, the virus spreads quickly and without warning.

Now, Autumn Care of Cornelius is one of seven facilities identified by Mecklenburg County as dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19, which is defined as having at least two positive cases. Despite the family’s best efforts to protect Hummel, they say they were told by a nurse that he is one of at least a dozen residents who tested positive for the virus.

“I thought the safest place to be for him there was on lockdown,” said Wimmer, who is Hummel’s granddaughter. “But I guess, you know, as strict as they can put the rules for staff members they’re stilling going grocery shopping, they’re still going home to see other…loved ones….staff is coming in every day and you don’t know where they’ve been before their shift.”

Wimmer was too upset to go on camera but spoke to FOX 46 by phone Sunday. She says Autumn Care never told them that Hummel tested positive for COVID-19 until his oxygen levels dropped dangerously low and he had to be rushed to Novant Presbyterian in Charlotte.

“He is positive for coronavirus,” said Wimmer. “They transported him yesterday. They notified us and let us know they were transporting him to the hospital. [They] never notified us of a possible test. We asked whenever he was being transferred if his tests ever came back and they said, “Oh no one called you? It was positive.’”

“So the only time you heard from [Autumn Care] was when they told you that your grandfather was doing so bad they were moving him to a hospital?,” asked FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.

“Yes,” said Wimmer. “I’m angry. I’m really angry.”

“I feel betrayed, honestly,” she added. 

She says Autumn Care kept them, and other families, in the dark. FOX 46 reached out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Officials tell us they are looking into these allegations.

Novant was never given Hummel’s test results so he had to be tested again, Wimmer said. Autumn Care has declined FOX 46’s multiple requests for comments over several weeks. For now, the family can only hope for the best from a distance.

“He’s intubated and sedated right now,” said Wimmer. “They said he’s OK. He’s in ICU. So, we’re just waiting. We call for updates and we’re just waiting.”

Mecklenburg County says the following long-term care facilities have an outbreak of COVID-19:

  • Autumn Care of Cornelius (Mount Zion Avenue)
  • Carrington Place Rehab and Living Center (Fullwood Lane)
  • The Laurels (Dorman Road)
  • Hunter Woods (Tom Hunter Road)
  • Huntersville Oaks (Verhoeff Drive)
  • Pavillion Health Center (Providence Road)
  • The Social at Cotswold (Randolph Road)

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North Carolina Coronavirus Hotline: 1-866-462-3821

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