Our view: Valley Hi residents deserve better

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Published: Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016 5:30 a.m. CDT

The McHenry County-operated Valley Hi Nursing Home failed in its responsibility to its residents by not recognizing a serious skin infection outbreak and then not properly isolating the outbreak to prevent it from spreading to others.

A critical report from the Illinois Department of Public Health blamed the outbreak of scabies that affected 27 residents this summer on significant deficiencies in Valley Hi’s infection control policies and procedures.

“Based on observation, interview and record review, the facility failed to have an effective infection control program to identify, monitor and contain the spread of a communicable disease between residents and staff,” the report stated. “This failure resulted in the spread of a communicable skin rash to 27 residents.”

Cary resident Christy Wagner, whose mother-in-law and uncle live in Valley Hi, said she told nursing home staffers in early June about her mother-in-law’s rash and terrible discomfort. Wagner said staff was slow “to connect obvious dots” and properly communicate to others, steps that could have isolated the outbreak.

“It’s our family’s hope that, going forward, there will be much better communication between staff and administration, working together so patient welfare as well as staff health, is a priority. That’s what they’re there for,” Wagner told Northwest Herald senior reporter Kevin Craver last week.

We wholeheartedly agree with Wagner, though we’ll put it in stronger terms: Valley Hi administrators cannot allow something similar to happen again.

Administrator Tom Annarella said Valley Hi has until Monday to submit a corrective action plan to the state health department, and another month to correct the deficiencies identified in the state report.

We expect Annarella and his leadership team will comply.

Annarella and Valley Hi’s operating board have done a nice job in recent years improving the nursing home’s once dire financial outlook. But the well-being of its clients must be the top priority.

Valley Hi residents and their families deserve better, as do county taxpayers, who help support the facility.