GALLATIN, TN (WSMV) — It’s the not knowing that’s the worst for Cathy Owens.

She called last night to the Gallatin Rehabilitation Center and Healing for an update on her husband, Scott.

After testing negative for COVID 19, Scott was moved back into the facility where ten patients have already died from the disease.

After a heart attack four years ago, Scott is unable to feed himself or walk.

“So he’s totally dependent on the nursing home,” Owens said.

But when Owens called Monday, she says a nurse told her that she couldn’t release any information because of HPPA guidelines.

“I said, no, I am his wife. I’m his power of attorney, and I am the person you should be telling these things to. She said, ‘I can’t tell you anything,’” Owens said.

Owens said when she called back Tuesday morning, she was told that administrators were in a meeting and that she needed to talk to a nurse.

“The person that answered the phone said let me get her, then the connection was gone,” Owens said

Her next call was to News4 Investigates.

We called the facility and emailed, after verifying that the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid had set up recommendations for nursing homes during the coronavirus crisis.

They recommend that nursing homes offer regular outbound phone calls, create a listserv for communications or provide voice recorded updates set at a regular time.

We also contacted the state department of public health and the state commission on aging and disability to discuss the family’s concerns.

Hours after we contacted the facility, we received a statement that reads in part, “We have created a COVID-19 task force that has reached out daily to the responsible party for every single patient and resident under our care via phone call. In addition, we have hosted community-wide conference calls as well as maintained ongoing communication through social media.”

Owens said she too was told that a nurse would be contacting her to update her on her husband, but she was still waiting.

Ryan Ellis, communications director for the state commission on aging and disability said during the coronavirus crisis, their ombudsman program has been restricted from entering nursing homes:

During this time, the Ombudsman Program has worked with facilities around the state to ensure residents maintained contact with loved ones through methods of alternative communication, however, this is done at the discretion of each facility. As we move forward in navigating the COVID-19 crises we are working with partners around the state to facilitate communications between families and residents as much as possible. If families have concerns or issues they should contact their local Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 877-236-0013.

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Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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