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Cases of coronavirus grow at state-run mental health center outside Baton Rouge

3 months 3 weeks 6 days ago Wednesday, April 08 2020 Apr 8, 2020 April 08, 2020 8:06 AM April 08, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate
Photo: Louisiana Department of Health

BATON ROUGE - Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, an organization that provides psychiatric services via facilities throughout Jackson, has reported that 61 of its patients and about 12 members of its staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to The Advocate, though cases have appeared in a few programs, most occurred at the inpatient hospital that provides psychiatric services for adults who are chronically mentally ill in the main compound, and at the Villa Feliciana Medical complex, which cares for the elderly, according to two employees.

Phillip Newton, interim president of Local 1695 at AFSCME Council 17, said the outbreak began early last week and administrators were slow to notify employees.

He told The Advocate that despite the pandemic, Eastern staffers have been spending long hours in the facilities and were even being called in for additional work.

Steve Lea, the chief executive officer at the hospital in Jackson, refused comment Tuesday night and referred all questions to the Department of Louisiana Health 35 miles to the south in Baton Rouge.

Kelly Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for the health department, offered a prepared statement that said the number of confirmed cases accounted for less than 10% of the population. 

WBRZ was first to report an outbreak at the facility this weekend; The state did not respond to requests for an update later, though provided information to the newspaper. 

The state says it has increased testing at the facility after receiving positive results for some patients. 

But her statement did not address the reported confirmed test results of the state employees working for the health system.

“These patients have been isolated since they were tested and will remain isolated until they recover,” Zimmerman stated. “The facility is working with the CDC and the Office of Public Health and has taken a number of precautions to protect our residents and employees.”

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