Community protests possible COVID-19 unit at local nursing center


WASHINGTON, Ind. (WEHT)- A community picketed in front of a nursing center in Daviess county. It attempted to move people out to make way for coronavirus patients. It happened at the Washington Nursing Center. It was a tense day as nursing center residents were first bussed out and then brought back to the center. That came after local health officials raised a red flag

With masked faces and gloved hands, people hold signs and honk horns to show they’re not in support of an idea Washington Nursing Center tried to implement.

“Washington Nursing Center, they decided to move the residents out of the county to some other nursing homes, nursing facilities,” Gary Allison, the Daviess County Sheriff says.

Washington Nursing Center officials were planning to open a COVID-19 unit bringing in patients from around the state to Washington for treatment. Protesters told Eyewitness News residents were loaded up on buses to be taken away.

“The county health department got involved in it over the weekend and this morning issued an order that they cannot move people outside the county,” Allison continues. “The order that was issued by the health department this morning prevents anyone from outside the county coming to this facility.”

Officials with the center say they plan to follow the county’s orders of keeping patients in the facility. But some families say it’s too late.

“I no longer want to have him in a facility that they own,” Jessica Walls says, “He is going to be going to another local facility starting tomorrow.”

Jessica Walls says her father-in-law is inside and has called the facility home since July. She says this had been a stressful and emotional event for both of them.

“He doesn’t understand. He’s 95 and this is his home.”

Former employees also joined the protest.

“I’m personally out here because I have a family member and a loved one who has been here for twelve years and I’ve been in this facility almost every day since then,” Mary Enlow, a registered nurse, said. “I was approached by the facility administrator just right here in this spot and was told that I was fired and was no longer welcome in the building even though I have a family member there. At which time she also leaned around me and fired a CNA who also worked here, but she worked full time.”

The center’s manager, who did not want to be identified, says they don’t have any plan to move residents or change the facility into a COVID-19 unit.

“There’s nothing going on inside the building, all of the residents have been brought back in and I don’t know why the protesters are still here,” the manager said.

Eyewitness News asked for the protocol in terms of notifying family in an emergency. The manager says families are called as soon as possible and that family members of the residents put on buses were notified they could potentially be transferred to a new facility.

“As of yet I haven’t gotten a letter. We received our bills and we paid those and this is what we get in return,” Walls said.

Alongside Walls, Shawn Colvin is protesting, and even though the facilities’ officials say they aren’t moving forward he doesn’t believe it.

“To be very honest I think it’s going to happen. I think they’re going to move people,” Colvin says.

Former employees say they were fired because they joined the protest. Walls says she knows a place for sick COVID people is needed.

“I don’t want it in our community but I do understand that we do need a spot for those patients.”

But she doesn’t want that to mean so many are uprooted from their homes.

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(This story was originally published on April 6, 2020)

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