VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — More than half its residents tested positive for COVID-19, dozens of its nurses and staff are quarantined, and families, staff, and local leaders alike all came forward to NEWS10 with complaints and concerns about The Grand at Barnwell. A representative for the parent company, The Grand Healthcare System, reached out to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton to clear the air after the station’s repeated requests for comment.
“We’re disappointed if they feel that they are unhappy with something. We will always go forward and try to redouble our efforts to improve our communication and work with them,” says Vice President Bruce Gendron.
Gendron confirms New York State Department of Health surveyors have inspected Barnwell, and the facility hasn’t passed scrutiny.
“They did give us, what I would consider a low level citation, or low level recommendation on some infection control type things they wanted us to revise,” he says.
A DOH statement confirms the May 13 inspection also ended with a citation for failure to give enough notification when a resident tested positive for COVID-19 or a resident died. The statement reads:
The New York State Department of Health launched an unannounced COVID-19 focus investigation at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell in Valatie on May 13, 2020 and issued a statement of deficiencies to the facility. Violations include infection control concerns and failure to provide verbal or written notification when a resident at the facility tested positive for COVID-19 or a resident suffered a COVID-19 related death. The provider is responsible to submit a plan of correction to address the identified concerns. The Department launched a second unannounced COVID-19 focus investigation at the facility on May 20, 2020. As this investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further.”
-State DOH worked with this facility to transfer 35 COVID-19 negative residents to sister facilities within their network.
-Relocated residents were placed on quarantine upon arrival at new facility.
-The facility reported that this decision was based on limiting the potential for exposure and to address potential concerns for staffing.
-Facility reports sufficient PPE levels, and like all facilities they are required to report that info daily
-DOH continues to support testing for residents and staff.
As NEWS10 reported, Columbia County Public Health Department Director Jack Mabb and Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader accused Barnwell management of trying to cover up their coronavirus numbers. Mabb says a Nosocomial Outbreak Reporting Application (NORA) that The Grand submitted to New York State showed only 88 positive cases, even though that day county numbers reported 121 cases.
“We are not saying Jack’s numbers are wrong, but we are just saying that people do recover and we adjust our numbers based on recovery,” Gendon responds.
Mabb also compared the facility’s NORA form reporting one death to the county’s numbers at the time attributing 11 deaths to Barnwell. He and Leader called out The Grand Healthcare System for not owning their lost residents.
“Of course we take responsibility for everybody who passes. It’s a tragedy, but there’s no villain here except the coronavirus,” Gendron fires back. “We are committed to providing quality care at Barnwell, we are committed to being open and honest about it. We have our differences with the perspective of some people at the county. We’ll continue to work with them, we don’t agree with everything they said, but we’ll continue to work with them.”
The cause of the infection control violation is not specified, but a staffer told NEWS10 they believed things nurses and aids were asked to do caused a big problem. As NEWS10 reported, this staff member says they were never tested and even if their colleagues did test positive, they were obligated to come back to work after only a week. Gendron says things were evaluated on a case by case basis.
“We’ve had employees who are out 14 days, and we’ve had employees who were asked to return after seven because they were asymptomatic and we’ve had staffing needs,” Gendron says.
However, he confirms the returning staff were not retested, only screened for symptoms.
“The standard was not to test all employees, only those who are symptomatic. Those who may have been asymptomatic were screened, temperatures taken before they started their shifts, you know, asked if they knew if they had any symptoms, we asked them if they came into contact with anyone who had COVID, so we had some screening forms and questions which was guidance given to us by the Department of Health,” Gendron says.
Now that Governor Cuomo has changed the nursing home staff testing standard, The Grand made new plans.
“If they don’t work at least three days a week, then they only get tested once a week, but for those employees that work three days a week or more they need to be tested twice weekly and we are in compliance with that,” Gendron continues.
The anonymous staff member also showed NEWS10 copies of their pay stubs that show they never received pay incentives The Grand Healthcare System promised, such as hazard pay and mandatory overtime.
“We have offered a range of pay incentives. I can’t quote them at you because we’ve used a few different programs for our different facilities across the state. We have between 200 to 250 staff members [at Barnwell], so I’m not sure. I really can’t comment on an individual‘s paycheck without looking at it,” Gendron says.
Residents’ family members also called NEWS10 furious with The Grand at Barnwell. NEWS10’s coverage brought you claims that families were never contacted when some residents were suddenly moved out of the Valatie home — a claim Gendron still denies.
“Our records show we contacted a member of each resident’s family, and I’m disappointed if people are upset. We can say that it was coordinated with the Department of Health and believed it was in the best interest of residents and staff, both those who transferred and those who remained behind,” he says.
“In some cases, I’m not saying in this case, but I know of many cases in my career where there’s multiple children but only one is listed on the medical records as the contact person. We contact that person and then the other sibling may not get the message. In other cases, we may have left voicemail messages because we couldn’t get a hold of the person with the contact number we called, so we do document that as a contact if we left voicemail,” he adds.
The Department of Health also confirms they made another surprise visit to The Grand at Barnwell again on Wednesday. That investigation is still underway.