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3 Facilities Account For Half Of The COVID-19 Deaths At Johnson County's Long-Term Care Centers

Brighton Gardens Senior Living Center in Prairie Village, Kansas.
Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Brighton Gardens Senior Living Center in Prairie Village, Kansas.

The two Johnson County long-term care facilities with the most coronavirus cases are both owned by large out-of-town companies with senior living facilities in multiple states.

Forest Creek Memory Care in Overland Park, with 24 reported cases, is owned by Seasons Living in Lake Oswego, Oregon, which operates 15 facilities in seven states, and Brighton Gardens of Prairie Village, with 21 cases, is owned by Sunrise Senior Living in McLean, Virginia, which operates 325 facilities throughout the United States.

Seven of the residents at Forest Care have died of COVID-19, and three of the residents at Brighton Gardens have died, according to information released over the weekend by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

The two long-term care facilities are among 15 in Johnson County collectively reporting 114 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of April 24, the department said.

Just three of those facilities — Forest Creek, Brighton Gardens and Stratford Commons in Overland Park, which reported 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases and three deaths — accounted for 57% of all the cases and half the 26 deaths.

The 114 long-term care cases themselves account for 26% of the 439 confirmed cases throughout Johnson County. And the 26 deaths make up 66% of the 39 COVID-19 deaths countywide.

The disproportionate number of cases and deaths in long-term care facilities underscores the susceptibility of their residents, who are older and tend to have high levels of chronic illness, to the coronavirus. In nursing homes especially, residents typically live in close quarters and caregivers move from room to room, making it difficult to contain the spread of infections.

Nearly one in 10 nursing homes nationwide have reported COVID-19 cases, according to an analysis by the Washington Post, which said that figure probably vastly understates the number because many states have not released the names of facilities with cases of the virus. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that among states reporting data, there have been nearly 51,000 cases and more than 10,000 deaths at over 4,000 facilities.

KCUR 89.3

Kansas and Missouri are not among the states reporting data.

Until recently, there was no federal requirement for nursing homes to report coronavirus cases and deaths. On April 19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued guidance that would require nursing homes to report cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Johnson County health department, citing patient confidentiality, had not identified facilities with cases and deaths until Friday evening. Health Director Sanmi Aureola said he released the information because as cases increased it made sense to heighten community awareness.

Aureola said the department was surveying long-term care facilities on an ongoing basis to identify the spread of the disease and to prevent further illness. He also said it was providing testing supplies to facilities that have requested them to do random sampling of residents and staff.

The health department identified by name 11 facilities with at least two confirmed cases. It did not name the four facilities with just one case.

There are roughly 40 nursing homes in Johnson County, according to the county’s Area Agency on Aging. Another 46 facilities are classified as assisted living facilities, some of which overlap with the nursing homes.

Most of the nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are run by for-profit companies. A few, such as Lakeview Village Independent Living in Lenexa and Village Shalom in Overland Park, are nonprofits.

Seasons Living, the Oregon-based company that owns Forest Creek Memory Care, entered Kansas and Missouri only last fall when it acquired Forest Creek and Willow Creek Memory Care at Lee’s Summit in separate transactions from a company that went bankrupt last year. Both facilities have 54 beds.

Dan Williams, president and chief operating officer of Seasons Living, said the company had taken steps early to institute CDC and state screening guidelines.

He said a 40-year-old, female nursing student at Forest Creek was the first person in all 15 of its facilities to test positive for COVID-19. A second employee at Forest Creek subsequently tested positive. Altogether, 9 employees and 16 residents came down with the coronavirus, he said.

The nursing student was on a ventilator but is being weaned off of it, Williams said, adding, “Our prayers are certainly with her and we hope she pulls through this.”

Williams said the company believes the virus was transmitted by an asymptomatic employee around mid-March. He said no one has tested positive since April 16.

Sunrise Senior Living, which operates Brighton Gardens, also operates two other Johnson County senior living facilities that reported COVID-19 cases: Sunrise of Leawood, which said it had six cases and three deaths, and Sunrise of Lenexa, which said it had two cases and one death.

Calls to Sunrise Senior Living, one of the biggest assisted living operators in the United States, were not returned. The company, which has about 32,000 employees, also operates in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Stratford Commons, the senior living center in Overland Park that reported 20 cases and three deaths, is operated by another big, albeit local, senior living company, Tutera Senior Living & Health Care in Kansas City, Missouri. Tutera was founded in 1983 by Dr. Dominic Tutera and runs 70 senior living communities in 10 states, including Kansas and Missouri.

A Tutera spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment.

<a  label="Forest Creek Memory Care" class="rte2-style-brightspot-core-link-LinkRichTextElement" href="https://www.forestcreekmemorycare.com/?utm_source=GMB&utm_medium=organic">Forest Creek Memory Care</a> in Overland Park is owned by <a  label="Seasons Living" class="rte2-style-brightspot-core-link-LinkRichTextElement" href="https://www.seasonsliving.com/">Seasons Living</a> in Lake Oswego, Oregon, which operates 15 facilities in seven states.
Jodi Fortino / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Forest Creek Memory Care in Overland Park is owned by Seasons Living in Lake Oswego, Oregon, which operates 15 facilities in seven states.

Copyright 2020 KCUR 89.3

Dan Margolies is editor in charge of health news at KCUR, the public radio station in Kansas City. Dan joined KCUR in April 2014. In a long and varied journalism career, he has worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star and Reuters. In a previous life, he was a lawyer. He has also worked as a media insurance underwriter and project development director for a video production firm.