Indiana inspects long-term care facilities after employee deaths

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or IOSHA, is inspecting three long-term care facilities after the deaths of four staff members.

IOSHA spokesperson Stephanie McFarland said the employers indicated the fatalities were COVID-19 related.

In mid-April, IOSHA opened a safety compliance inspection after the employer of Wildwood HealthCare Center in Indianapolis reported the deaths of two employees.

Since then, McFarland explained two more long-term care facilities have each reported a death of a staff member.

She said an employer of a long-term care center in Newburgh, Indiana, reported one death on April 27, and another fatality was reported by a different employer in Paragon, Indiana, on May 1.

IOSHA does not determine cause of death. Rather, the agency is working to determine if the fatalities are workplace related. The state is also working to ensure the employer was taking reasonable steps under the circumstances to protect its workers. 

Generally, during a safety compliance inspection IOSHA wants to find out if a company is compliant with IOSHA regulations.

“Whether these were related to the workplace or not is unknown,” McFarland said. 

She said these inspections typically take 30 to 90 days to complete. 

Kenneth Garrett II and Alisa Bowens said their sister, Linda Bonaventura, died on April 13, which was less than a week after she tested positive for COVID-19. Family said the 45-year-old worked at WildWood HealthCare Center as a licensed practical nurse.

“It was never about her,” said Garrett. “It was always about, ‘My patients need me.'”

Her siblings described Bonaventura as a dedicated healthcare worker who did not live in fear. It was not uncommon for her to work 16 hour shifts, her family said.

“She said, ‘If I get it, I get it,'” said Garrett. “‘If it is my time to go, it is my time to go.'”

Even after taking precautions, her family said she tested positive for COVID-19 in early April.

“She continued to stay at home with her husband,” said Bowens. “By Saturday, the fever had broke, so we were all thinking she was on the mend.”

That Monday, Bowens said Bonaventura was rushed to the hospital and passed away shortly after. Bowens explained her sister was diabetic but had it under control. Bonaventura was married and had three step children.

“She always had a joke,” Bowens said. “She would always make light of any situation. When you wanted to cry, she would have something to make you laugh about it.”

Bowens is heartbroken for her sister’s husband. She explained his father passed away three weeks before Bonaventura died.

Ethan Peak, the executive director of Wildwood HealthCare Center, described her as a beloved member of the facility.

“She was dedicated, outgoing and fun loving. She would do anything for her residents and co-workers. We are heart-broken about her passing and that she is no longer with us,” he said.

CommuniCare Family of Companies operates Wildwood HealthCare Center. A spokesperson for the company said they are required to report all work-related employee hospitalizations to IOSHA. He said he could not comment on any specifics as there is an ongoing inspection.

CommuniCare Family of Companies explained they have taken several steps to protect their employees at Wildwood.

The company said they are testing all of the staff and residents at the facility, isolating all patients who are suspected of having COVID-19 and sending employees home to quarantine if they test positive. Employees must show negative results from two consecutive COVID-19 tests.

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