New York Nursing Homes: Update from Greg Chambery

by Gregory Chambery, Administrator

I want to provide some information about the unfortunate situation facing nursing homes in New York right now.

This has been a difficult week for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in our state. There are a number of facilities, mainly located in the New York City area, that have suffered large numbers of resident deaths. Seeing the numbers on the news reports can heighten our fear about what might happen if the Maplewood or any other facility were to announce that there is COVID-19 in the building.

What the news reports don’t mention are some vital facts about the situation and I think it’s important to share this information with you.

On March 25, 2020, all nursing homes in the state received a letter from the Department of Health. The letter announced an emergency regulation that had just been issued, giving orders to all facilities in New York as follows:

“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or re-admission.”

I sat down with our medical director and administrative team at The Maplewood to go over the implications of this directive. We could hardly believe what the DOH was requiring of nursing homes.

It was our understanding that social distancing and the shut down of society was to protect the kind of high-risk people that live in nursing homes. In essence, the DOH was requiring nursing homes to admit COVID patients that were medically stable.

All of this came at a time when nursing homes, and even the hospitals, did not have the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their staff to safely care for folks with the virus. There was great fear in the nursing home community that this new regulation was going to lead to a bad outcome.

Unfortunately, the problem that nursing homes foresaw did in fact play out. With more than 700 people coming into hospitals each day during the last week of March, the situation in NYC was very serious. Once some of those people were treated in the hospital for a couple of days and were relatively stable, they needed somewhere else to go to make room for more patients.

Since the hospitals were over capacity, the nursing homes in and around NYC were required to accept many of these patients. Patients did not acquire COVID-19 from the facility; rather, they brought it into the facility. Many of these facilities did not, and still do not, have the PPE they need to care for these patients properly.

These facilities are now being painted as the villains in the news media when, in fact, they were just following the orders placed upon them by the Department of Health.

I was the Chairperson of the state nursing home association from 2015-2018. During that time, I visited many facilities and became acquainted with some of the buildings and administrators that we are seeing in the news. I know first hand that the people who run these facilities are extremely dedicated and my heart goes out to them. They are bravely doing all they can to make the best out of a very bad situation.

In Rochester, fortunately, there has not been a hospital surge like we saw in NYC. Therefore, unlike NYC, we have not seen an immense pressure on nursing homes to relieve hospitals by taking COVID positive patients. At this point, I don’t see that happening here in Rochester.

In terms of The Maplewood, we are currently in good shape with our PPE supplies. We are confident in our preparedness efforts and ability to handle the situation should the virus enter our building.

Finally, I would like to thank our community for all the well wishes we’ve received. Our families and the general public continue to prop us up and give us what we need to boldly take on each day as we care for our residents.

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