How are things at the Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center? It depends on who you ask. State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa conformed on Wednesday that lawmakers have been in contact with officials from the facility and from the Health and Human Services Commission.
Sen. Hinojosa told the Southside Light in an interview on Wednesday that documents show that inventories are reflective of adequate supplies, including personal protective equipment and supplies. Sen. Hinojosa also said that staff from facilities from around the state have been working at the facility to relieve the stress from current staff.
He also confirmed that there have been a total of 7 deaths, including 5 residents and *2 staff members. Current levels of new infection are going down and the facility is down to two current COVID-19 quarantine units, after what appears to be little more than an outbreak that led to herd immunity after the situation was allowed to get out get out of control by administration.
Sen. Hinojosa confirmed that he, along with State Representatives Todd Hunter and Abel Herrero participated in phone call with officials from Health and Human Services. The trio of legislators spent their time grilling officials from HHSC for answers.
“The families are worried about their loved ones,” Senator Hinojosa said. “They want answers.”
Answers is not something that the facility is good at providing. When the situation first came to light during late June and early July, administration nor the HEalth and Human Services Commission chose to respond. It was not until staff and family members started coming forward with their concerns that any hint of a problem was even acknowledged. Even then, administrators were slow to act and upper management within the commission refused to admit that there was a problem.
It was only after a heard immunity type situation developed and an immediate jeopardy citation were issued did the situation really begin to start getting attention. But no action was taken against the administration who initially covered up the situation at hand. Some families are now concerned that it was that careless response which lead to the deaths of their loved ones.
At least two families of the deceased say that what little response did come, ended up coming too late. They feel as if their loved ones died because of a faulty plan that was never actually enacted. Health and Human Services administrators have done a careful job at keeping this situation under wraps and hiding the facts of the situation and only speaking through spokespersons for the commission.
While the situation does seem to be calming down at the facility, the lasting impacts are far from over. Administrator Melissa Gongaware even held what many viewed as a “put-on” of a show where they did an appreciation line for staff and passed out scratch off tickets. The appreciation, employees say was never actually felt.
The agency has made no move to investigate the actions of Gongaware and other administrators who had the frontline responsibility of making sure that those who Gov. Abbott identified as being some of the state’s “most vulnerable citizens” were protected. The failure was and is evident, but one thing is clear—HHSC is going to take no action to hold those responsible accountable unless staff members at the facility and families stage some sort of action to have the person that many see as a cold-hearted and reckless manager removed from her position. Gongaware has been shuffled around from various state locations after having been caught up in misdeeds and poor management at two other state supported living facilities in El Paso and Austin before somehow landing here in Corpus Christi.
While the situation may have actually reached herd immunity status because of mismanagement and poor communication, the accountability for the lack of action is likely to not ever be reached and the transparency behind the matter may never be realized. That has staff, families and lawmakers concerned—nobody knows just how badly they have been lied to just yet by the commission and the administration.
*The second employee death is being attributed to a medical procedure that possibly resulted in the patient having contracted coronavirus. Due to the massive infection rate at the facility it’s not completely certain if conditions at the facility contributed to the infection. That remains unclear and under investigation and is probable.
Matt Pierce Briscoe filed this report from Corpus Christi, Texas on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at 18:53 pm.