Harsha Behavioral Center in Terre Haute this week confirmed “further cases of positive COVID-19 patients,” without identifying how many.
In an email response to a Tribune-Star query earlier this week, Harsha CEO Roopam Harshawat stated, “We are working closely with the Vigo County Department of Health to ensure that all patients and employees are taking active precautions and those with symptoms or confirmed cases are pursuing proper treatment.”
The organization “remains transparent while protecting the privacy of both our patients and employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” she said. The statement references HIPAA, which protects sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.
On May 13, Harsha confirmed 13 positive COVID-19 cases involving 11 employees and two patients, with additional tests still pending. Harsha Behavioral Center is a psychiatric hospital for children, adolescents, adults and geriatrics.
At that time, the hospital stated that admissions had been suspended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and staff that were able would be working from home for the next two weeks.
On Friday, Harshawat stated that “out of the safety and well-being of our staff and patients, we have made the decision to not accept new patients at this time and hope to resume new patient activity soon after we first determine everyone is safe and well.”
The Vigo County Health Department does not comment on specific facilities where COVID-19 cases have occurred unless there is a public health issue or concern and “the public needed to know,” said Roni Elder, Vigo County health department spokeswoman.
Otherwise, it is up to those entities to disclose whether they have any COVID cases, she said.
“If there is a public health issue or concern, and we need the public to know a facility is a hot spot, and the public might have come in contact and there is no way for us to just trace the people who were there, we would let everybody know,” Elder said.
Harshawat also wrote in a follow up statement, in response to Tribune-Star questions:
“All Harsha Behavioral Center employees who are able to work remotely have been working from home and will continue to do so until we feel it is safe for them to return on site. Only necessary on-site employees are on the premise of the facility to continue providing patient care. We are encouraging all employees who have worked on-site to get tested. Overall, our facility is undergoing added and voluntary sanitation measures to further our protectant methods.
Additionally, Harshawat stated: “Coupled with COVID-19, there is a mental health crisis. Per a Washington Post article published earlier this month, nearly half of Americans have reported that COVID-19 is affecting their mental health and in April there was more than a 1,000% increase in people who were emotionally distressed compared to last April.
“These numbers are drastic and can not be taken lightly. As the only (inpatient) mental health facility for children and adolescents in a 60-mile radius, we provide essential services for our community, from children to geriatric patients and we will continue to support and provide these critical services.”
Harsha’s statements were provided through RJL Solutions, a Terre Haute-based public relations and lobbying firm.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.