County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) accused the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of inadequate staffing, unclean environments, and improper care of its residents who have coronavirus.

In a Wednesday letter to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Calvert relayed what he said were concerns from a nurse who works at the nursing home. He declined to give the Rivard Report more information about the nurse to protect their identity and employment. In a separate prepared statement, Calvert referred to the facility as a “house of horrors.”

The nursing home has been the epicenter of a local COVID-19 outbreak. As of Wednesday, 74 residents and 28 staff members have tested positive. Seventeen residents have died so far.

Staff at the facility told Calvert that some Southeast Nursing residents had not had a shower in three to five days, he wrote. There have been times the indoor temperature was set to 77 degrees – too high for patients with fevers, he claimed – and cited a number of mattresses that had needed to be discarded for some time. Calvert claimed that employees were not given meals while working. He also included photographs of timesheets that showed two nurses and a certified nursing assistant working to care for 50 COVID-19 patients and 68 seniors at a time, he wrote.

“These are my constituents and this is not acceptable care to me nor the people we represent,” Calvert wrote Wednesday. “Senior citizens have paid their fair share of taxes to the state, county and city and now have a right to have proper healthcare.”

The Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has been scrutinized in past government inspections, resulting in a one-star review from medicare.gov. An 11-page report from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services in October listed violations such as food safety issues and lack of proper sanitary measures. The nursing home also received 17 health citations in October.

Wolff said he talked to Calvert Wednesday morning and followed up by sending a team to review Calvert’s concerns. San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Director Dawn Emerick said officials from Metro Health and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission visited and investigated Calvert’s concerns.

The nursing home is “not perfect, but there’s nothing to the accusations,” Emerick said Wednesday.

Nancy A. Shellhorse, an attorney representing the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, wrote a letter to Calvert on Wednesday disputing each of his allegations and demanding an apology.

“I do believe you owe Southeast’s nursing staff, physicians and other healthcare workers an apology regarding the unfounded and inflammatory charges made this morning in your letter,” Shellhorse wrote. “The letter was an insult to their integrity, professional abilities, and even their individual morals and honor. We are working as hard as we can to save lives in a difficult environment, made even more difficult because of your letter sent this morning.”

Though Calvert had asked Wolff to send the nursing home residents to the Texas Center for Infectious Disease, Emerick said because that is a State facility, that was not an option. She also said Metro Health has no authority to regulate nursing homes but her organization felt it was important for local health authorities to visit Southeast Nursing.

“We felt that part of our job was to assure and make sure there was no harm in terms of the outbreak,” she said. “So we were very happy with the outcome and what we saw.”

Calvert was not convinced that local and State health authorities’ review of the nursing home gave them an accurate picture.

“Authorities were able to see the agency get in compliance after the letter was made known to the Southeast nursing home management, so they sprung into action,” he told the Rivard Report Wednesday evening. “That’s what happened.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.