By Cheryl Fiandaca

LITTLETON (CBS) — Stella Kazantzas only had a few minutes to tell her husband she and her daughter loved him before he died. The couple, married for more than 50 years, spent every night together.

Eighty-three-year-old Nick Kazantzas was recuperating from an injury at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley in Littleton where he was getting rehabilitation.

Attorney David Hoey specializes in nursing home cases and says long-term care facilities were always a ticking time bomb, telling the I-Team it all comes down to not having enough trained or supervised staff to meet the needs of residents, and something like the coronavirus was bound to happen sooner or later.

Nashoba Valley is owned by Life Care Centers of America. Its Washington state facility had the first nursing home deaths in the country, putting all long term care facilities on notice for the outbreak.

But still the infection spread like wildfire through Nashoba Valley and other nursing homes across the country. Stella said she is frustrated and angry because more could have and should have been done.

In fact, the I-Team has learned that in August, the state found Nashoba Valley deficient in infection control. The Department of Public Health is responsible for ensuring the nearly 400 licensed nursing homes and long-term care facilities meet state and federal regulations, and has 60 inspectors who conduct surveys of the homes. But right now it has just 15 investigators to look into complaints.

Hoey said there is little enforcement or consequences for violations. He said there are not enough investigators to get to all of the complaints and do the yearly inspections, so things fall through the cracks. Even when a nursing home is found to be in violation and it is issued a deficiency, he said it is just a slap on the wrist.

Stella, who’s still in shock grieving for her husband, said the ordeal has been a nightmare for her and her family. She talked to WBZ-TV from the door of the home the couple shared and always planned for him to come back to. Heartbroken that the place she trusted to get Nick well failed to keep him safe, she believes that if he had gotten the proper care, he would be here today.

Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley tells WBZ-TV it has been in full compliance with both State and Federal Agencies since the onset of the coronavirus, and that deficiencies in infection control were corrected shortly after receiving notification. The Department of Public Health said it has suspended annual inspections and is focused on health and safety threats that include infection and disease control.

The center released a statement: “The coronavirus has proven exceptionally difficult to older and vulnerable populations. Our primary concern has been and continues to be the health and well being of our residents. The heroes who work on our staff pride themselves in the work that they do. They are trained professionals who were faced with an unknown pathogen. We mourn with all families and those who have lost loved ones.”

Cheryl Fiandaca

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