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Highland Place resident speaks out about life inside hard-hit facility during coronavirus pandemic

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A resident of one of the hardest-hit long-term care facilities in Caddo Parish is sharing her experience living there and speaking out about some of the ways she believes the home has mishandled their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Toni Newton is a resident of the Highland Place Rehab and Nursing Center in Shreveport, which has reported some of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in northwest Louisiana. She reached out to KTAL/KMSS after seeing a previous story detailing the high number of positive COVID-19 cases among residents and staff.

The latest numbers released by LDH show Highland Place is now reporting a total of 135 cases, two of which are new since last week. There have also been and 54 cases among staff, including four new cases. There have been a total of 37 deaths among residents. But the facility has also reported to the state that a total of 91 patients and 48 staff have recovered from the virus.

Still, the data suggests there were several active cases among residents at the facility, at least as of last week. Newton says there are issues with sanitation and not enough is being done to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

“It’s hard. It’s hard seeing people not taken care of properly. They do the minimum to take care of you. I have to say there are a handful of people that go above and beyond, but the negative outweighs the positive by far.”

She said the facility is in disrepair.

“There’s a hole in the ceiling where there’s water dripping all the time and there’s still a bucket underneath it. The water is nasty. They do have roaches and gnats. The floor is caked with stuff. It’s just not clean. It’s just not clean at all.”

Newton believes some residents have contracted the coronavirus from staff members.

“There’s a girl here that’s bedridden that never gets out of bed and she has it right now,” Newton claims.

She said the staff does wear masks but they don’t have enough personal protective equipment.

“There’s still people not wearing gowns. They wear gloves but I see them not change them going room to room. So I just don’t think they’ve handled it well at all.”

She said she contracted the coronavirus back in March and was put on a respirator in the hospital.

“When I got out of the hospital half the people I knew had passed away,” Newton said.

Newton is paraplegic after a car accident when she was 19, so she uses a specialized chair. She said the staff lost her chair when she was transferred back from the hospital and she’s been having to use a replacement chair.

“That’s something that hasn’t happened in 30 years. I’ve never not had my chair.”

She said she’s speaking out on behalf for those who cannot.

“Like the girl who has the coronavirus now. She has been bedridden for years, so she can’t speak or defend herself. My roommate can’t defend themselves. I don’t want these people who don’t have families or someone there for them to do this on their own. Somebody needs to do something. That’s why I’m here.”

We reached out to the administration of Highland Place but were told they were not in the office today.

The Louisiana Nursing Home Association said they’ve encouraged facilities to be transparent with residents and their families regarding case numbers.

We also reached out to Councilwoman Levette Fuller, who represents the district where Highland Place operates.

“I’ve never received a response from the manager/administration,” Fuller said. “I had some family members reach out, but it was after their loved ones passed away.”

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