Home Health Retirement homes are Achilles’ heel as deaths soar

Retirement homes are Achilles’ heel as deaths soar

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Like nursing homes across the country, the Hebrew home in Riverdale adapts to the challenges of coronaviruses to care for its residents.

Rockland / Westchester Journal News

Some workers have been dismissed for speaking out about the lack of protective equipment. Terrified residents can no longer visit their loved ones in person. And state officials have refused to provide information about specific long-term care facilities while many administrators refuse to speak about the number of people infected in their facilities.

As a result, residents of nursing homes fall ill and die behind closed doors in what is largely an invisible epidemic, with the number of COVID-19 deaths in such facilities increasing by the thousands in the northeast from the United States while families fear for elderly parents. scramble to get information.

More than 2,400 residents of nursing homes and living facilities have died in New York from coronavirus, accounting for 24% of the state’s total number of deaths. The 252 deaths in New Jersey nursing homes last week represented one in eight deaths in the state.

Last week, New Jersey called US National Guard doctors to help two state-run veterans’ homes in Paramus and Menlo Park. At least 24 deaths at Paramus’ home have been attributed to the virus, and the number of residents hospitalized at the Paramus site rose to 51 on Monday, from just eight on Saturday.

On Wednesday, another 24 people died in the facility whose COVID-19 status was unknown, according to internal documents; we know that others have died since then. This is higher than the typical death rate at the home of veterans of about three residents per week.

A security guard at Hebrew Home in Riverdale takes the temperature of a person entering the facility on April 8, 2020. All persons entering the facility, including all staff, are checked for fever before being allowed in the nursing home. Like other nursing homes across the country during the coronavirus pandemic, the facility ceased to allow residents to have visitors. (Photo: Seth Harrison / The Journal News)

Rosemarie Manion’s death in New York on April 7 was sudden and confusing for her family. The 78-year-old woman lived at the Northern Riverview Healthcare Center in Haverstraw, in a section with other patients with dementia.

Her daughter Deborah Manion said she did not understand how she got infected because she was confined to her floor. The establishment did not comment.

“Someone certainly brought it,” she said of the virus.

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It was difficult to get information about what was going on in some nursing homes. State health services refuse to disclose the number of cases and deaths for each facility. Some parents say they have been walled up by homes where loved ones live.

Jennifer Jackson said she was pleased with the care her father received at a facility in Westchester County, New York, but that she was concerned about the spread of the virus.

She said she called nurses and attempted to contact administrators at the North Westchester Restorative Therapy & Nursing Center in Mohegan Lake for information on the infection rate.

“They didn’t answer my call,” said Jackson, who lives in the Catskill Mountain area of ​​New York.

She said that she had difficulties when her family tried to remove her father from the house and that the staff members prevented him from leaving because he did not want to sign papers. Jackson said he spoke on the phone with a staff member who admitted the facility had residents with coronavirus.

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Her father, William Jackson, 81, was allowed to leave and now lives with a nephew, she said.

The facility has released a brief statement saying it follows “all of the Department of Health’s guidelines for relaying information to those we serve.” “

Jill Montag, a spokesperson for the New York Department of Health, said nursing homes should inform residents and their families if anyone in a facility has tested positive for COVID-19 or is suspected of to see her. However, she added that they were not allowed to identify these residents.

Last week, the AARP called on state officials to name the facilities where epidemics have occurred. Bill Ferris, a representative for the organization, also called on residents’ relatives to complain to health officials when facilities do not contact them.

He said a directive from the New York Department of Health makes it clear that facilities should “keep families informed about exactly what is going on” with their loved ones and tell them “what’s going on in the facility” .

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has repeatedly stated that nursing homes are required by state law to notify families of an epidemic of death in these facilities.

New York and New Jersey have been hit hard by the pandemic, but other areas have also had problems in nursing homes. Even in areas where establishments have not reported COVID-19, visitors are prohibited, requiring relatives to communicate by video or by sitting in front of resident windows and talking by phone.

Delaware and Pennsylvania affairs

In Delaware, 21 of the 32 people who died from complications from the virus last week were staff or residents of long-term care facilities. Almost 100 people in these homes tested positive for the virus, mostly residents.

Delaware officials said last week that four establishments had more than one positive case. Six people died at the Little Sisters of the Poor near Newark, state officials said. The home did not respond to requests for information.

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Last week, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, officials from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania released information about infections in nursing homes. Out of 75 county homes, 51 had at least one case. Two establishments each had more than two dozen cases. None of the outbreaks have been identified.

Meanwhile, the Bucks County, Pennsylvania health department declined to provide information about infections in long-term care facilities. This includes a county-run 360-bed home, Neshaminy Manor, in Warrington. County officials declined to say whether anyone had tested positive there.

On March 25, a Bucks County home, Ann’s Choice in Warminster, informed residents that a staff member was positive and quarantined at the home. The property declined to provide additional information.

Nurses face obstacles

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A member of the U.S. National Guard enters the New Jersey Veterans’ home in Paramus on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran / NorthJersey.com)

Two nurses in Hornell, New York, complained about the lack of protective equipment in a nursing home, saying they did not want to wear disposable gowns that were reused by several workers.

One of them, Michelle Leach, said she was fired after speaking. She said she was concerned about the risk of getting a skin infection by sharing and reusing personal protective equipment, or PPE, that should only be used once.

“Since I was fired for not sharing PPE a week ago, I have seen a lot of obituaries from the residents I took care of at Hornell Gardens,” said Leach. “It’s so sad to see that, it breaks my heart. “

The other nurse, Colleen Cole, said that workers should reuse and share the dresses. She said they were often spoiled and draped over racks outside the patient rooms. She said that she is now in quarantine after possibly being exposed to the virus.

Robert Hurlbut, CEO of the parent company, confirmed that staff were reusing masks but did not comment on the reuse of gowns or equipment. He declined to discuss Leach’s allegation that she was fired for reporting.

Officials in Steuben County, New York, where the house is located, did not provide information on deaths in specific establishments. They confirmed that there were cases of COVID-19 at Hornell Gardens and two other nursing homes.

In Broome County, New York, a nurse, Becky Kostyshak, said that she cared for residents who tested positive for the virus without their employer telling them their status, the Susquehanna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at Johnson City.

She said the virus had been brought into the center by “a visitor who shouldn’t have been there at the start. Many people are now infected and some have died. “

The nursing home declined to comment, saying it focused on “exceptional patient care.”

Broome County executive Jason Garnar called Susquehanna a “hotspot” for the coronavirus but did not reveal the number of cases there.

“It’s like throwing a match in a haystack. “

Chris Vitale, owner of a nursing home

The owners of The Terrace at Woodland in Rome, New York, said they had no cases, but were concerned about the lack of tests and the lack of protective equipment. They said residents of their assisted living center returned from the hospital without being tested for the virus. Even if tested, they say, residents return before the results return.

“It’s like throwing a match in a haystack,” said owner Chris Vitale.

He said residents returning from the hospital were placed in solitary confinement for two weeks as a precaution.

An official at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York’s Bronx, said there have been six deaths in the past few weeks that appear to be related to the coronavirus. The house banned residents’ gatherings and was hampered by 30 percent of its staff calling in sick.

“I would say we are hanging on to that, but it has been very difficult,” said Daniel Reingold, CEO and president of the home’s parent company.

He said two floors of his facility are reserved for COVID-19 patients transferred from an affiliated hospital. Eight other residents who may have the disease are kept isolated. He said staff members are “scared and nervous,” including many mothers who fear infecting their children.

Although family members are not allowed into the facility, he said, daily video chats have become common.

Donna Rosenblum said she plans to remove her parents from the Scarsdale Ambassador in White Plains, New York when the first cases of coronavirus were reported in the area, but she thought they would receive better care in the center assisted living.

Now, she said they were confined to their room, which has become the norm in these facilities.

“I think it’s really hard for them,” she said.

As in other homes, patients stay in touch with loved ones through video chat, with staff rolling a 40-inch TV from room to room, said Joe Lopuzzo, chief financial officer and operations director of the facility .

He said the facility “burned” protective equipment but received thousands of masks from the Westchester County emergency management office. Family members also provided protective equipment, he said.

Four residents were sent to the hospital and tested positive for the virus, according to emails sent to families by the facility’s president, Jean Dunphy. According to emails, stable patients are discharged home and any resident with respiratory symptoms is isolated. The ambassador confirmed the content of the email but did not provide further information on the number of cases.

In Sussex County, New Jersey, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II diagnosed COVID-19 with 14 residents and four staff members, according to a note dated April 5 sent to staff by the facility administrator. The cases of 25 other residents and 38 workers were under investigation at the premises of the Township of Andover.

The administrator, Cynthia Bradford, did not confirm these figures or provide other information about the cases at the facility.

Abbott Koloff is an investigative reporter for NorthJersey.com. To have unlimited access to its surveillance work that protects our communities and democracy, please sign up or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @abbottkoloff

Editors Frank Esposito, Joe Spector, Amy Neff Roth, Karl Baker, Lisa Broadt, Jo Ciavaglia and Jennifer Miller contributed to this report.

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