South Florida assisted-living facility faces fine over COVID-19 protection

David Fleshler, South Florida Sun Sentinel

A West Delray assisted living facility faces a fine for allegedly violating rules to protect residents against COVID-19.

Grand Villa Delray East was accused by state regulators of allowing residents to walk around unmasked, neglecting to train all staff in safety procedures, failing to notify the state of infected staff and not following proper sanitary procedures for laundry and surface areas.

The Florida Agency on Healthcare Administration is seeking a fine of $5,000 and $500 in costs.

GVDB Operations LLC, which owns the Sims Road facility, denies the allegations and is contesting the case in the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, where judges hear disputes involving state agencies.

“We’re confident the actions we’ve taken to protect our staff and residents have certainly met the requirements from local, state and federal authorities,” company spokeswoman Sandi Poreda said. “The details of our protocols are in our response, and we’re proud of that record of action. We look forward to a swift and positive resolution of this matter.”

Ten residents of the 170-bed facility have died from COVID-19. The disease has killed a total of 8,109 residents and staff of long-term care facilities in Florida.

In its complaint, the state said inspectors saw residents in the facility’s memory care unit seated in common areas or walking around unmasked or with the mask worn below the chin, without staffers doing anything to correct them, according to the complaint. They saw the same gown used by staff to attend to more than one resident, a violation of the facility’s own policy, according to the complaint.

Staff training was inadequate, the complaint said. By May, records showed only 21 of 90 employees had been trained in COVID-19 procedures, the complaint said.

The company said in a court filing that the state’s accusations were not accurate. The company said it kept surfaces clean, kept clean and dirty laundry well separated, adhered to training requirements and never witheld information about employees testing positive.

Regarding unmasked residents outside their rooms, the company said the facility follows federal guidelines to make the best of a difficult situation.

“In working with memory care residents who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it is often difficult for staff to ensure these residents are wearing masks at all times as the residents may experience distress and tend to remove the masks,” the company said.

David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4535.