Bonaventure at Keizer Station (Joey Cappelletti/Keizertimes)
An assisted living facility in Keizer with a staff vaccination rate of 34% is currently dealing with one of the largest active Covid outbreaks among all Oregon long-term care facilities.
Family members and staff describe in interviews with the Keizertimes a situation that may be even worse than officials are reporting.
On Sept. 1, the Oregon Health Authority reported that an outbreak that began Aug. 23 at Bonaventure of Keizer Assisted Living and Memory Care had infected five people. On Sept. 9, the outbreak had spread to 24 people and one resident had died. A Wednesday state report showed 27 people at the facility had contracted Covid.
Aubrey Kelly’s grandmother began living in the Memory Care unit at Bonaventure of Keizer in late July of this year.
On Sept. 8, Kelly received a phone call from her grandmother telling her that she had a fever. Kelly was surprised, since she was supposed to be informed if her grandmother was ever sick.
“I started trying to call Bonaventure and I could never get through. I'm talking 20 times I tried to call and I couldn’t get through,” Kelly said.
Bonaventure said in an email to the Keizertimes that their telephone service “has been experiencing sporadic outages and we have notified the carrier.”
After being unable to reach anyone on the phone, Kelly’s sister went to the facility that night and a caregiver said her grandmother had been in bed for two days with a fever and a cough.
Kelly returned to the facility the next morning, and said the assistant director told her there was no documentation of her grandmother having a fever or her grandmother ever being tested for Covid .
As of Monday, Kelly said three different caregivers said her grandmother had a fever, but no one knew if, or when, she was tested for Covid. Kelly said she was told all Memory Care residents are supposed to be tested on Saturdays.
“Because of the outbreak and because of the terrible use of personal protective equipment that I have witnessed, I think she probably does have Covid ,” Kelly said Friday, Sept. 10. “But I still can't figure out if she's been tested.”
In response to a list of written questions from the Keizertimes, Bonaventure officials said there have been 22 Covid cases since Aug. 16, not 24 as OHA had reported. They also said COVID was “introduced into Bonaventure of Keizer on Aug. 19, 2021 by a fully vaccinated person. It is likely that it was introduced by more than one source.”
All 22 cases, according to Bonaventure, are residents. The Assisted Living and Memory Care facilities at Bonaventure of Keizer have a combined 96 licensed beds. Bonaventure said the outbreak also included the Independent Living facility.
The Oregon Health Authority data on vaccination rates at long-term care facilities, which was last updated Aug. 16, shows that 34% of staff members at Bonaventure of Keizer are vaccinated. The same data shows that 99% of residents are vaccinated.
The vaccination rate of staff at the Bonaventure of Keizer is the second-worst among long-term care facilities in Marion County. Another Bonaventure facility, Bonaventure of Salem, reported a 12% vaccination rate among staff on Aug. 16.
“We currently have in excess of 50% of our team members vaccinated and will meet the vaccination mandate by October 18. We do not know what contributed to the discrepancy of the OHA August 16th report,” Bonaventure officials said.
According to an OHA spokesperson, facilities self-report their own vaccination rates and Covid cases.
Kelly said that while she has the ability to follow up on her grandmother’s health daily, not all residents are as fortunate.
“I know there were people in there who God only knows how sick they are or what's happening to them. And there's no one, there's no family following up,” Kelly said.
Bonaventure officials said they “contact the Power of Attorney or Primary Family Contact for each resident per the Department of Human Services requirements,” whenever there is a positive Covid test.
Kelly, who is her grandmother’s power of attorney, was unaware of the outbreak at Bonaventure until she went to the facility on Thursday, Sept. 9.
The Salem-based company operates senior living communities throughout Oregon, Washington and Colorado and came under fire last month after a company recruiter posted a video encouraging unvaccinated health care workers to apply for work at Bonaventure.
The recruiter, Shayna Hall, posted a TikTok on July 29 addressing nurses and caregivers who had quit or been fired for refusing to get a Covid vaccine.
"I just wanted to tell you if you are a nurse, a caregiver, a med tech, and you now need a new job because of this, hit me up, I'll hire you," Hall said.
At the time, Jeremiah Gray, divisional director of operations at Bonaventure, told Salem Reporter that no preference would be given to job applicants based on their vaccination status. He also said Bonaventure doesn’t ask applicants if they’ve been vaccinated.
That policy has changed since the Aug. 16 story, according to Bonaventure officials, who wrote that “Bonaventure only hires new employees who are vaccinated or willing to be vaccinated.”
Bonaventure officials also wrote in their response that team members are supplied surgical masks, face shields, and gloves and are required to complete a daily Covid -19 screening form at the reception desk upon arrival.
A caregiver that works intermittently for Bonaventure of Keizer as part of a nurse staffing program said she most recently worked at the facility two weeks ago. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of repercussions at her job, said she was never told of an outbreak or any Covid-positive residents.
“I’ve worked at some other facilities that have had Covid patients. Part of the protocol is you have to get your temperature taken and you have to wear a face shield and a mask. And for some you even have to do a rapid Covid test,” the caregiver said. “I didn’t have to do any of that when I was working at Bonaventure. I just went in and I think I only wore the face mask all day and no one even mentioned any residents having Covid.”
Bonaventure said Tuesday, Sept.15 that “only three residents are ‘Active Cases’ and we fully anticipate that within the next week we will have zero active cases of Covid-19 at Bonaventure of Keizer.”
On Wednesday, Kelly said she still hadn’t been told if her grandmother’s Covid test had come back positive or not.
News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.