FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: Discrepancies found in Melbourne nursing home COVID-19 data

A nursing home in Melbourne is at the center of a COVID-19 numbers mix-up. 

The Florida State Health Department (DOH) was under the impression there were 32 employees from the facility sick with the corona-virus, where there were only two. No one reached out to the facility to find out more about the outbreak, and FOX 35 News discovered, the number was a mistake.

So how did two become 32?  The answer, we are told, is a reporting error that went unnoticed by executives and officials.    

The Life Care Center of Melbourne is part of the larger company Life Care Centers of America. It can house about 100 residents.

In late August, on a Thursday, when the DOH released its updated list of COVID cases in nursing homes, The Life Care Center of Melbourne suddenly showed 32 employees out with the coronavirus. However, the director of the facility says that the number was wrong.

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The error was not corrected at the time.  In fact, the director was not aware the number 32 was listed for her nursing home -- for employee cases -- until FOX 35 News brought it to her attention on Friday, Sept 11. Then on Saturday, the number was changed.

"You have to have data integrity procedures," said Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County, "so in this case, I would say the nursing home wasn’t checking what they were submitting, the state failed because they didn’t say, 'Whoa, 32 people, oh my god,' and want to investigate that and the nursing home wasn’t looking at their own numbers every day."

Fine says this mistake highlights a disconnect between the Health Dept and nursing homes and says the lack of attention to detail is concerning because for the two weeks the number was wrong, the county and state numbers were wrong as a result.

Kelly Wilson is an advocate for seniors, she was a member of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs until that board was dissolved.  She believes this mistake is probably not an isolated incident and said there needs to be more double-checking when numbers suddenly spike at a facility.

"Moving forward, this isn’t going anywhere, so we have to do better, this isn’t going to disappear," Wilson said.

In a statement from Life Care Centers of America, a company communications representative says he “has passed this information on to our clinical and divisional leadership and they will be reviewing these numbers with the appropriate health department agencies.”

Brevard County’s Health Department says it reports what it is given- data that comes from the ACHA-  The Agency for Healthcare Administration.

ACHA sent FOX 35 News this statement after our story aired, 

"This information is self-reported by facilities directly into the Agency’s Emergency Status System. 32 was a reporting error by the facility. The Agency reached out to the provider, and it has since been corrected."

ACHA requires nursing homes to update their numbers in that system every 7 days, so in theory, if an error is entered, it would be discovered and fixed within a week.  

That did not happen in this case.