SEMINOLE, Fla. - With more than 30 deaths, Freedom Square of Seminole has become the center of one of the deadliest coronavirus outbreaks in the state.

What You Need To Know

  • At least 5 citations for infection prevention failures since 2017
  • Professor says problem not unique to Freedom Square
  • Lack of proper training is cause in many cases
  • BELOW: Statement from Freedom Square

And while its website boasts of paved brick streets and elegance, federal health inspection records show at least five citations for infection prevention failures since 2017.

Each of the five accompanying reports detail multiple violations of the facility’s infection prevention protocol. The most recent report is from February 7, 2020, just weeks before the pandemic was declared.  Among the violations in the report, inspectors note both a CNA and occupational therapist were not wearing proper PPE to aid residents in isolation.

In another report dated October 5, 2018, an inspector noted staff didn’t change gloves in between cleaning up stool and dressing a wound.  And on September 29, 2017, it was noted respiratory equipment was left on the floor where it could easily be contaminated.

But as startling as the details of these citations are, USF research assistant professor Dr. Lindsay Peterson said they’re not unique to Freedom Square.

“About 57 percent of all nursing homes in the country have at least one infection control deficiency between 2017 and 2019,” Peterson said, citing research conducted by members of the university’s School of Aging Studies.

In fact, Kaiser Health Foundation reports government health inspectors have cited more nursing homes for infection prevention failures than any other violation since 2017.

Peterson said lack of proper training is partly to blame.

“These are people who have to get very close to people they work with.  They have to clean them, they have to bathe them, brush their teeth, they turn them, they dress them,” Peterson said.  “Training is huge.”

Peterson said a new federal regulation meant to help with the issue was supposed to go into effect by the end of 2019.  It would’ve required facilities to employ an infection specialist, someone designated to oversee training programs on-site. 

“That regulation had been delayed.  The guidance was it would go into effect later in 20-20,” Peterson said.  “And now here we are.”

Spectrum Bay News 9 reached out to Freedom Square of Seminole and received the following statement from Executive Director Michael Mason:

“Those deficiencies have all been resolved.  As per regulation, plans of correction were submitted immediately and approved by the appropriate agency thereafter.  The safety of our residents and employees remains our top priority and we continue to follow all protocols, including guidance and recommendations from federal, state, and local health authorities.”

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