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Councilwoman worries that East Side is ‘dumping ground for everything COVID,’ Westover Hills facility pulls out

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Antonio and Bexar County topped 800, the city learned that Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare will not be accepting coronavirus patients.

The companies  that own the Westover Hills facility and River City Care Center in the city’s I East Side last week announced they had selected those facilities to care for nursing home  patients diagnosed with COVID-19, but do not require hospitalization.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg says neither the City or the County made that decision.

“It would have been nice if we had been notified about that as it was happening, rather than after it happened, but again, this wasn’t a City or a County decision on those two facilities,” said Nirenberg.

When asked why Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare has pulled out, Nirenberg said,” Just as the two nursing home management companies selected themselves, one of them selected to pullout because of the intense scrutiny and frankly, political backlash that had been occurring over there.”

Meanwhile, two people with COVID-19 have moved into the River City Care Center on Nolan Street. The mayor said they were not transferred from another nursing home.  They were moved into that facility through the Texas Ombudsman Program.

Medical mask on the street outside River City Care Center/ April 12, 2020

At a special city council meeting Tuesday afternoon, Jada Andrews-Sullivan, who represents the city’s East Side, said she’s heard complaints from constituents about the COVID-19 testing site at Freeman Coliseum, 200 extra hospital beds at Freeman Expo Hall, and now, the River City Care Center on Nolan Street opening its doors to coronavirus patients–all on that side of town.

“This one district feels as though they’re the dumping ground for everything COVID,” she said. “How do we truly speak to a community that is totally concerned about  feeling  as if  they’re the  dumping ground to have the next hot spot (for coronavirus)?”

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said River City Care Center is safe and clean.

“They arranged for supplies of Personal Protective Equipment for their employees, they provided additional training, they bring meals in to their employees every single day so they don’t have to go out in the community,” said Hood.

Personal Protective Equipment outside River City Care Facility, April 12,2020-photo-Dignowity Resident

At Tuesday evening’s COVID-19 briefing, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff defending operations on the grounds of Freeman Coliseum, which is County property.  He said the extra hospital beds are for overflow  patients who would be moved out of area hospitals to make room for COVID-19 patients, if necessary. Wolff stressed that there would be no coronavirus patients at Freeman Expo Hall.

He also defended the drive-through  testing site.

“They’re in their own cars.  They don’t even get out of their cars, so there’s absolutely no danger there,” said Wolff.


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