BILLINGS — Montana health inspectors have fielded three complaints of misconduct geared toward the Billings memory care facility at the center of a COVID-19 outbreak since it opened in 2013, according to state health records.
In each case, Canyon Creek Memory Care addressed the problem and submitted a plan that was accepted by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, according to agency records obtained by Q2 News.
None of the incidents were related to the current COVID-19 outbreak, which has claimed 14 lives as of Thursday at the facility, although state health inspectors say they are continuing to monitor Canyon Creek's response.
One complaint came to the state in 2016, and two more in 2017, according to DPHHS records. In two of those cases, deficiencies were found, recorded and a plan of action to correct was put into place.
In both cases, that plan of action provided by the facility was accepted by the health department and the complaint resulted in a passing inspection.
Deficiencies cited by the health department include a 2017 incident where a staff member did not notify a resident's doctor after that resident fell until an hour and a half after they were taken to the hospital.
An inspector instructed the facility to develop and implement a policy and procedure manual for the organization to follow to ensure “continued care and day to day operations at the facility.”
The plan of action also included documenting the review that manual each time, something that is required by state law for all Montana health facilities.
Another complaint to the health department stems from 2016 when a resident was not provided with a bilateral hearing aid and instead the device was kept in a nurse's station.
An inspector revealed the resident “wasn’t able to maintain their highest level of function and capability due to an inability to hear adequately.”
The inspector cited a deficiency to record and document medication and treatments of residents in that instance.
Canyon Creek was most recently inspected for its license renewal in 2019. Its three-year license expires in April 2022.
Assisted living facilities, such as Canyon Creek, are eligible for license terms between one and three years, depending on past surveys.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) spokesman Jon Ebelt says when it comes to complaints regarding a facility, the state will opt for an inspection.
“State licensing does conduct inspections should complaints occur prior to a renewal inspection,” Ebelt said in an email to MTN News.
However, he did not specify if there were any recent or pending complaints against the Canyon Creek facility during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Officials with Canyon Creek owner Koelsch Communities, said on Tuesday the company decided to forgo voluntary testing provided by the state of Montana in mid-June because the results would have only provided a "snapshot" of results for a small moment in time.
To date, 96 people associated with Canyon Creek Memory Care have tested positive for COVID-19 – 56 residents and 40 staff members.
Ebelt says after Canyon Creek’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, detected in a resident on June 30, the facility conducted “sentinel testing” of all staff and residents on July 3.
“These results determined that a large number of both staff and residents were positive. With multiple high-acuity care residents needing to be quarantined, and a large number of staff being unable to work due to the need to quarantine,” he said.
At that time, the facility self-reported to the state health department the current staffing situation.
DPHHS then conducted an inspection on July 10 in conjunction with the public health department to offer technical assistance and to set up monitoring for “quality of care,” said Ebelt.
“Since then, we have been receiving daily staffing reports along with the resident condition reports,” he said.
According to information tracked through the state’s licensing bureau website, Canyon Creek has 67 beds available at its Billings facility and received its license in 2013.
The state of Montana provides all assisted living facilities with a set of guidelines to follow along with additional guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Those guidelines have been revised to include protocols for COVID-19.
The state also tracks and publicly displays all licensing history for every assisted living facility in Montana.
That information includes renewal and complaint inspection information, according to Ebelt.
During the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Ebelt said Montana DPHHS is monitoring staffing to make sure it's sufficient to meet the facility’s resident’s needs.
“In knowing the total number of residents in the facility and how many have current confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, we can assess the staffing needs. DPHHS continues to assess and provide assistance to this facility,” he said.