ROUND ROCK (KXAN) — Larry and Julie Benningfield describe his dad as a real Round Rock “local.”
“He had an auto garage where he did mechanic work in Round Rock for many, many years,” Julie said. “His dad was a very, very kind man. He was funny.”
Last week, Larry’s dad died in a Round Rock nursing home, on what would have been his and his late wife’s wedding anniversary.
The Benningfields knew he was tested for COVID-19 a few months ago, and the results came back negative. They said because of the visitation restrictions on these facilities, that was about all they knew.
“They told me when this all started… I asked the question, ‘If my dad starts declining, will I get to see him?’ They said they would make arrangements for me to see him, but they made no effort whatsoever,” Larry said.
Julie added, “It just felt like they didn’t care.”
They were also worried that his hospice nurse wasn’t allowed inside the facility. Then, two weeks ago, the couple became especially worried about his dad’s health.
“He wasn’t doing okay… He kept falling asleep on the phone and wasn’t alert and wasn’t okay,” Julie said. “We got a hold of an aide we had never spoken to, and they said, ‘His vitals are fine, he’s fine.’ We never got to talk to him again after that.”
Larry’s dad died on July 7. Just a week later, the couple learned about an outbreak at the facility.
San Gabriel Rehabilitation and Care Center published a notice for families, residents and the public explaining there had been 81 positive cases of COVID-19 — 48 residents and 33 staff members — detected after a round of testing on July 8.
In a letter to residents, the facility administrator said, “While we are disappointed to see the increased number of cases in our facility, we knew that our numbers would likely go up as a result of mass testing. Rather than be discouraged by more known cases, we are encouraged that access to testing is improving our ability to respond to this virus and will enable us to protect our residents and staff in a more targeted way moving forward.”
Larry and Julie don’t know the official cause of death for his dad, especially since he died before this round of testing. They said they wondered if more frequent testing sooner could have helped.
San Gabriel’s administrator told KXAN, “Nursing homes across the country have faced unprecedented challenges over the last several months and San Gabriel is not an exception. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the safety of our residents and staff have remained our number one priority and we continue to, closely monitor and follow the recommendations of our federal, state and local health officials.”
When Investigator Avery Travis asked about communication with families, the administrator said, “We understand the importance of communication during this time and strive to be transparent with our residents, families and the community we serve. I am not aware of the resident you reference in your questions, but to the extent we failed to communicate with a family about a resident’s condition, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss the concern directly with the family member. Our goal is to deliver timely and meaningful updates to families, and we always want to know if we have fallen short of that goal.”