The Grand at Barnwell faces backlash from family members who say they are not getting updates on residents care

Columbia County

VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Problems continue at The Grand at Barnwell rehabilitation and nursing home in Valatie. Schenectady local Tammy Nunez says she was furious when her dad called her Sunday night to tell her the staff at The Grand tried to send him away — all the way to Long Island.

“I don’t think he completely understood what he was signing. I don’t think, when I talked to him, he didn’t completely understand what he was signing,” Nunez explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Nunez says she is her father‘s power of attorney and no one called her beforehand to update on her dad’s care. She says Sunday night, an aide came into her father’s room to ask him to sign transfer orders to another facility in The Grand Healthcare System in Long Island.

“It’s very frustrating, because he’s only of sound mind to a degree. I love the man so much, but he only has an eighth grade education and he’s practically deaf, so unless you talk loudly and clearly to him and completely explain what is going on, he doesn’t comprehend it,” Nunez says.

Nunez goes on to say her father had been a resident of The Grand since suffering a fall in March. He was sent for rehabilitation after release from the hospital. She says communication has always been an issue.

“He’s coherent enough that he knows what’s going on enough to call me, then I had to hang up the phone with him, then call through The Grand secretary, tell them to transfer me to the fifth floor supervisor nurse. Sometimes they answer right away, sometimes you have to call back two or three times. Then I would have to tell them and say, hey his call button is on nobody’s answering, his food is cold, his CPAP machine isn’t set up, it’s just been an ongoing thing since March,” she explains.

She says a staff member did finally call her Monday morning with an update, when she was able to outright refuse the transfer. However, she says her concerns don’t end there.

“I worry for others who are not as of sound mind as my dad was, thankfully he was in present mind enough to call me. Were the other family members even notified? Did they get a call at seven in the morning like I did only after the fact?” she asks.

We went to investigate Monday afternoon and saw ambulances and buses lined up all around the facility. Although staff at The Grand refused our calls, Columbia County Public Health Department Director Jack Mabb confirms 37 people were transferred out.

“They moved these folks because they were [COVID-19] negative, but they also moved these folks because it helped improve the staff to resident ratio. They have 32 staff that are positive and in various stages of quarantine,” Mabb explains. “They were moved between facilities in Rome and Long Island, but I believe predominantly in Long Island.”

Nunez says even after refusing the transfer, she was then even more surprised to discover her dad was suddenly home instead.

“Nobody called me to tell me that he was coming! They dumped him off, they didn’t even make sure that somebody was going to be home and make sure that he got home safe,” she says.

To top it all off, she adds he hasn’t gotten the at home care he was promised or even a medication list. She showed us paperwork that dictates his conditions, but not treatment.

“You send a man who has heart issues home with no medication! You gave me no instructions whatsoever!” Nunez exclaims. “This man has congestive heart failure, COPD, a possible UTI, which they’ve been giving him antibiotics for. Is he done with the antibiotics or does he still need the antibiotics? They didn’t even give me a med list at all! I have no idea what medications he’s taking now, because whatever he’s taking now could be completely different from what he was taking in March.”

Nunez says at least her father is negative for coronavirus. Others who have COVID-19 positive family still being treated at The Grand are having even worse luck with communication.

“I am angry, because I have placed a call yesterday to speak to the administrator and he still, even to this moment, has not called me back,” explains one anonymous woman.

She says her father with dementia has been living at The Grand for two years. She says the same problems Nunez has been having, she’s lived with all this time.

“Ever since he was put there, I’ve been trying to transfer him out because there have been communications problems from the beginning. I even made a formal complaint to the state health department,” anonymous says.

She says she had been getting robocalls to update on coronavirus treatment, but even those have stopped.

“No call has come through since Friday. Again, it’s all automated and it’s not specific to any particular patient. No one has called me to update me on whether my father is getting worse or is getting better,” she says.

We have been calling The Grand and for about a week and a half trying to get updates and answers. Finally Tuesday afternoon, a representative for The Grand Healthcare System called back, but the only response to every question on communication with family and patient representatives was the same: “We have strictly followed Department of Health guidance.”

This representative also asserted all family members had been notified before transfers took place, and he was not aware of any exceptions to that or issues with the robocall system.

However, he did speak definitively squash the online rumor that the Barnwell facility is in the process of shutting down, saying there are no plans to stop operations. 

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