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DIGGING DEEPER: Rehab outrage

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TUCSON - A Tucson family is outraged with how a skilled nursing center handled their loved one's care.

The family says their 77-year-old grandmother went in for rehab after ankle surgery and came out positive for COVID-19.

What's even more terrifying is how the family learned their grandmother contracted the virus.

Beatrice Ard, affectionately known as Miss Bea, is now at St. Joseph's hospital fighting for her life, according to her grandson, Gerren Ard.

"My grandmother has COPD, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and all those work against you when you contract the virus," Gerren told News 4 Tucson.

Miss Bea originally went to St. Joseph's on March 8 with a broken ankle. 

Miss Bea's grandson, Gerren Ard, said after surgery, Miss Bea was transferred to Sapphire of Tucson Nursing & Rehab for rehabilitation. 

Within days after being at Sapphire, the family was told she had a minor fall but would be okay.

On March 29, the family heard from the grandmother, Miss Bea, who told them she was fine.

However, Miss Bea's roommate told the family a different story.

Gerren Ard shared with News 4 Tucson what his grandmother's roommate said:

"You need to get your grandmother out of here because they aren't treating her properly here."

The roommate went on to say:

"There was a person on the first floor who contracted the coronavirus and died."

That night, the Ard family said they received a recorded message from Sapphire of Tucson Nursing & Rehab.

The message from Sapphire said that someone inside the facility had tested positive for the coronavirus and they were handling the situation.

It wasn't until the following day that the Ard family heard the jaw dropping number of COVID-19 cases at Sapphire on the news.

"It wasn't the one, it wasn't the two," Gerren said. "It was 27."

The family, shocked at the news, reached out to Sapphire of Tucson.

The family told News 4 Tucson they couldn't get any answers as to why they weren't told about the massive number of coronavirus cases.

However, this is what the family learned when they called in:

"We get the news my Grandmother contracted coronavirus," Gerren told News 4 Tucson.

Gerren Ard said Sapphire of Tucson told the Ard family they planned to send Miss Bea back to St.Joseph's Hospital and would let them know when she would be transported. 

That call never came from Sapphire. 

Gerren said he and his family found out his grandmother was back in the hospital when Gerren's mother, Miss Bea's daughter, received a call from Miss Bea's surgeon.

"I'm the doctor performing surgery," the surgeon said to Gerren's mother.

"Surgery?," Gerren's mother asked. "What surgery?"

The doctor replied, "Didn't somebody tell you? Your mother was found on the floor her hip was broken."

In addition to no one telling the Ard family that Miss Bea was back in the hospital, no one told them Miss Bea fell and broke her hip once she got to the hospital, and was now facing yet another surgery.

"All she went into the hospital for was to rehabilitate her ankle, get help for her ankle," Gerren said. "We never thought she would be fighting for her life."

The Ard family is devastated by the lack of communication from Sapphire of Tucson.

News 4 Tucson reached out to Sapphire of Tucson. 

Jeanine L'ecuyer, a spokesperson for the skilled nursing center, said:

"They could not talk about specific cases, and that the situation was more complicated than people think.  It involved whether a person is legally able to receive information about a patient.  The facility is working to close those loopholes so people can get their information."

"I'd like someone to tell us what happened in Sapphire and why we weren't ever told the condition of our loved one," Gerren Ard said.

On Wednesday evening, Sapphire of Tucson sent News 4 Tucson the following statement:

Due to HIPAA and regulations that protect the sharing of patient health information to the public, we are unable to comment on specifics regarding this patient or the situation, nor can we provide additional information.

Per HIPAA and patient health information laws, family members – extended or otherwise – do not automatically have a right to patient health information. Only the person who holds power of attorney does, and it is at their discretion alone that this information is shared with other family members.

Sapphire of Tucson has gone to extraordinary lengths in its attempts to provide accurate information to those who are legally entitled to receive it.

If other family members would like information about a resident at Sapphire, they should contact the family member or responsible party who holds power of attorney for that resident.

 Jeanine L'Ecuyer, spokesperson for Sapphire of Tucson

The Ard family is very spiritual and they believe their faith will get them through this, so they were asking for love and prayers for Miss Bea.

Miss Bea continues to recuperate from the hip surgery.

Furthermore, the Ard family said that late Wednesday afternoon, they were told by St. Joseph's Hospital that Miss Bea's COVID-19 test results were now negative.

The Ard's said their prayers were answered.

To help support Beatrice Ard, visit the family's GoFundMe page titled, "'Clinging to Life' - a Coronavirus Mishap," by clicking here.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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