GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Just days after that disturbing video of elderly patients being moved out of the nursing home in Gallatin because of a Coronavirus outbreak, there are plans to reopen the facility.
In fact, it could be back in business by Thursday despite objections from Sumner County officials who call the idea "irresponsible."
They said it's too soon and they have no confidence in the facility right now or the Tennessee State Health Department. And they believe the state's plan to reopen the nursing home now will only put more lives in danger. So they called NewsChannel 5 Investigates to express their concerns and sound the alarm.
"I tell you this, I would not want one of my loved ones to be in that facility right now," Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt said.
And, the mayor of Gallatin, Paige Brown, echoed his sentiments.
"I'm certainly concerned for the patients and the families of the patients," Brown said. The two mayors along with a county commissioner, emergency management director and EMS director gathered to voice their deep concerns.
"How much faith do you have in this facility right now?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked EMS Chief Greg Miller.
"Little to none," he replied.
They are all worried about a plan to reopen the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Health by Thursday, less than three days after the last resident was moved out.
"They are forcing us into a situation I believe is unsafe and that's why I asked you to come out today because I'm willing to call them out," Holt, the county mayor, said.
Emergency workers in hazmat suits began moving sick patients out last Friday night. Since then, four residents have died. And more than 70 residents along with 3 dozen employees have tested positive for Coronavirus.
But the state health department said the facility is now undergoing a deep cleaning and once that's done, patients can move back in, including some of those who tested positive for Covid 19 but are no longer showing symptoms.
"We're completely relying on the state health department to be the protector in this situation and we are not getting the feedback we need from them," Sumner County Commissioner Chris Taylor said about the plan.
These elected and emergency officials believe it's too soon to reopen.
"I implore you to stop and think about what you're doing. Slow this process down," Mayor Holt said he's say to the TDOH, if he could.
The officials want testing to be done before anyone is allowed back in.
"To ensure that there's no virus in there. That's what we want," EMA Director Ken Widener explained.
They also want to make sure the facility has enough trained staff and policies in place to prevent anyone else from getting sick.
"Our biggest concern is that we're going to repeat this process over again," Chief Miller expressed.
And they're concerned not only about the residents and staff, but also all of the emergency workers who were called in from Sumner and surrounding counties to move all of the patients to area hospitals. They said the crews went through hundreds of PPEs already in moving the 170 patients out.
"We just want to make sure that our people are protected," Mayor Brown said.
And, that, they said, means not rushing things and putting more lives in danger.
"It would be common sense to wait a couple of weeks or three weeks to ensure that this virus is gone before we bring these seniors back in," Mayor Holt stated.
After all, these seniors and the staff there are their neighbors, friends, and even, in some cases, family.
"I think we owe it to them to ask these tough questions at this point and time to just say, Hey, before we put them back in there, let's make sure we're doing it right,'" Chief Miller explained.
The Governor's office told NewsChannel 5 Investigates a state surveyor would be inspecting the facility to make sure it's safe for residents to re-enter. We asked if that would include any sort of testing and the Governor's Office never responded.
We have also repeatedly reached out to the owner and administrator of the nursing home since we began reporting on the outbreak last week, but they have yet to respond to any of our questions.