Family of man who died of COVID-19 at Durham nursing home wants answers

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The family of a man who died after testing positive for COVID-19 wants answers about what his nursing home was doing to protect its residents and staff member.

Clyde Vowell called PruittHealth Carolina Point home from more than five years. On Thursday officials with PruittHealth said 65 residents and staff members at the facility tested positive for COVID19.

“The Department of Health and Family Services ought to examine very carefully to see how it got in there and why not steps were taken to protect them,” said Vowell’s sister Ruth Corkum.

Corkum said her younger bother suffered from dementia and was recently diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Corkum said she and Vowell’s ex-wife, Barbara Vowell, visited him at Carolina Point often.

Barbara Vowell last saw her ex-husband on March 10. She says she got a call from Duke Health on Friday, April 3 telling her Vowell had been taken to the hospital where he tested positive for COVID19.

“The doctor at Duke told me he’d come in and was coughing real bad and had a low grade fever,” said Vowell

Vowell said her ex-husband was put on a ventilator, but it was removed after doctors realized he had a “do not resuscitate order.” She says Vowell died early Saturday morning.

The family says Vowell was bedridden, and  they want to know how he contracted COVID-19.

“I was really upset, and to be honest with you, real hurt at PruittHealth because they didn’t let me know anything. I didn’t like the care he was getting, but I could not afford financially to send him somewhere else,” said Vowell.

Corkum said she learned her bother was hospitalized from her ex sister-in-law.

“At this point I have not been called by the nursing home even to tell me he went to the hospital, much less that he died,” said Corkum.

On Wednesday state health officials said Carolina Point had at least 60 cases of COVID-19, with Governor Cooper calling the facility a new “hotspot” for the virus.

“I’m absolutely horrified,” said Corkum.

According to PruittHealth’s website, on March 6 and 12, the company asked residents’ loved ones not to visit if they had any symptoms of respiratory illness.

On April 1, after a resident tested positive for COVID-19, Carolina Point was placed on “code red.”

“Under the guidance of public health officials, enhanced infection prevention protocol was implemented. We are actively monitoring staffing levels, appropriate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and have installed an air scrubber system,” said PruittHealth in a statement.

PruittHealth says 100 percent of the patients were tested in 48 hours. Every patient who tested presumptive positive has been isolated and employees who tested presumptive positive were asked to self-quarantine.

“We will continue to monitor the issue and its effects on our center as we follow the latest public health guidance. We ask for your prayers for the patients’ loved ones during this difficult time, and out of respect for them and the patients’ privacy, we cannot share any more details at this time,” said PruittHealth in a statement.

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