VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader says for more than two weeks she’s been hearing the horror stories that allege unethical and even negligent practices towards patients at The Grand at Barnwell. She says she’s spoken to staff members there who are also just about to their breaking point.
“One employee told me she goes home at night, puts her hands in her face, and cries,” Leader explains. “They are frustrated, tired, their hands are tied, they don’t wanna lose their jobs, they love their jobs.”
NEWS10 found one such nurse who says even if she loses her job at Barnwell, she had to speak up.
“It’s nonstop chaos. You feel like you’re literally, as they say in the Bible, in the belly of the beast,” says the anonymous nurse.
This woman says she’s been a nurse for years and Barnwell has always had issues with communication and staffing. However, she says since the coronavirus outbreak, staff has become so limited, daily mental breakdowns are almost normal.
“I came into the office, and when they [supervisor and nurse] both saw me, they both just started crying. They just said, we can’t do it, we can’t take it anymore. The supervisor had been there for 24 hours straight, which is illegal. The nurse had been there for 18 hours straight with no breaks. You can’t eat, because people are scared to eat and drink in the facility,” she explains.
She says for the last few weeks, staff has been reduced to only one nurse and one certified nursing assistant per shift for each floor of The Grand at Barnwell facility.
“We are talking two people to care for, give medications to, feed, change, clothe, deal with behaviors, deal with admissions, discharges, IVs — two people assigned to 40 people on a unit. That’s really, really bad,” the nurse explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
“There’s no way that we can get everything done according to regulations, as we should be. There’s no way that we can give each patient the time that they deserve and require.”
She also claims despite the latest report by the Columbia County Health Department that there are 40 COVID positive staff members at The Grand at Barnwell, the majority have not been properly tested.
“It’s been almost three months and they’ve never done the swabs, checked me, checked the new people coming in, nothing,” she says.
“There’s mixed communication, mixed information, I wasn’t aware until a coworker had told me that, hey they are testing,” the anonymous nurse goes on to say. “If I don’t hear from my coworkers, then I don’t know what’s going on. There’s nothing posted, there’s no guidance we can refer to, there isn’t a website where we can go on and read was changed in Barnwell or what’s updated. There’s nothing.”
She adds the only tests that have now been made available starting Tuesday are antibody tests. She also says sick staff members are asked to come back before the CDC recommended quarantine period of 14 days past the most recent exposure.
“They are just taking anybody back. You know, we had another nurse who was sick originally, was out for seven days, came back, never got tested, and then this is the same nurse who now just went out again and tested positive,” she says.
Columbia County Public Health Director Jack Mabb confirms 123 residents at The Grand are infected, 12 have died, and 15 of the county’s total 19 hospitalizations are all Barnwell residents. He also confirms Barnwell received 12,000 gloves, 150 face shields and 400 isolation gowns on Monday.
However, this anonymous nurse says even that’s not enough to ensure proper safety with the rapid growth of coronavirus patients. She says she and some other coworkers tried to buy hazmat suits to wear and sanitize on their own time and money. She says they were all told the suits would scare the residents.
“I was told that I wasn’t allowed to wear my hazmat suit, which is actually what the New York State health department people were wearing when they were there and going around between the units testing everybody,” she says.
“I felt like they wanted me to come in to help people without protecting myself. How could I help people and put myself at risk and then also put them at risk?” she asks.
And to add insult to injury, she adds most of the nurses and staff haven’t been properly paid in three months. She showed NEWS10 copies of her pay stubs that prove she never received the hazard pay she was promised in several messages that she also showed reporters.
“They keep telling us that we are going to get paid “heroes pay”, we’re going to get paid mandatory overtime, hazard pay. They keep saying it over text messages, emails, and phone calls but we haven’t got paid at all,” the anonymous nurse says.
“I wanted to turn around and walk out the door, but what am I going to do? How am I going to support my family? How am I going to make sure these residents are okay? If I’m not here, who’s going to look after them?” she asks.
Supervisor Leader says she is in contact with New York State to have The Grand at Barnwell investigated. NEWS10 reached out to the parent company, The Grand Healthcare System, and so far hasn’t received a response.