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Elderly stranded in hospitals as nursing homes turn them away over coronavirus

Jack Dolan, Harriet Ryan and Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Over the weekend, he said, a nursing home sent an elderly woman to the emergency room by ambulance for low-level flu symptoms. Doctors ordered several tests, including coronavirus, and dispatched her back to the home.

The next day, administrators sent her back and said to keep her until the hospital could prove she didn't have the virus. The doctor said he had no choice but to admit her.

"That's six days of nursing care and a bed for somebody who just really needed to be separated from others," he said. "If (the woman) lived at home, I would say, 'Go home and put yourself in the bedroom and have some chicken soup.'"

He said that even if some of the patients ended up testing positive, the hospital should be reserved only for those with trouble breathing and other severe conditions.

"There's no downside for these facilities to call 911. They get a person out of their facility for five hours minimum and lighten staffing," he said.

Nearly two weeks after she took the coronavirus test, Schoen's mother -- who is blind and suffers from hearing loss -- remains trapped at the hospital, in a negative-pressure isolation room reserved for COVID patients. He said she can't have visitors and has to be restrained at times to prevent falls.


A nurse told the family Wednesday that she clearly does not have COVID, Schoen said. The situation is "crazy," Schoen said: "I've got a hospital room they can put a real coronavirus patient in."

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