Lawsuit filed over nursing home death after COVID-19 outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through the United States has hit nursing homes hard. By mid-April, nearly 100 residents of the Citadel in Salisbury were ill with coronavirus. One of those was Marjorie Fuller Garvin, 96, who passed away on April 27 after falling gravely ill. She had moved to the Citadel only a couple of months prior and was “lucid and vibrant,” her family says.

Wallace Graham, has now filed a lawsuit against Accordius Health, which operates the Citadel, and Portopiccolo Group, a private equity firm, because of Garvin’s improper care.

Allegations of improper care

The lawsuit states that Citadel staff assured Garvin’s family that she would receive quality care and a private room for the $11,000 they paid the facility monthly. However, staff moved Garvin out of her private room to a “quarantine hall” during a coronavirus outbreak. Then another resident in the quarantine hall tested positive for COVID-19.

The Citadel did not notify Garvin’s family when the first Citadel resident needed emergency room care and tested positive for coronavirus on April 4. Nor did the facility let her family or power of attorney know when staff and residents received coronavirus testing on April 10.

Garvin’s family tried to reach the facility’s front desk multiple times for updates about her. They were unable to reach anyone and received no follow-up calls. Finally, on April 15, the family found out that Garvin had tested positive.

The lawsuit also says the Citadel “laid the groundwork for the virus to flourish” and didn’t implement measures to appropriately control the spread of the virus, even though it had the resources to do so.

This isn’t the first complaint over improper care at the Citadel. In January, residents claimed that nursing assistants would enter their rooms, but did not address their care concerns. In February, an inspection found that the facility had multiple violations in caring for its residents, as well as a dirty kitchen and food preparation area that attracted cockroaches and ants.

Nursing home COVID-19 cases across North Carolina

As of May 15, more than 2,500 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in North Carolina nursing homes and 350 residents had died of the illness, including Marjorie Fuller Garvin. Most likely, other care facilities will face more scrutiny about how they have handled the virus’ spread since March and how well they cared for their residents during this time and in the months to come.