VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Department of Health conducted hundreds of surprise COVID-19 safety checks at nursing homes across the state since the start of the pandemic. Now the department will move to fines, confirming 23 facilities will have to pay a total $328,000 over infection control violations since March 1.
The Grand at Barnwell in Columbia County is on that list and will be fined around $22,000. As NEWS10 ABC reported, DOH surveyors cited the home after visits May 13 and 21. Tammy Nunez was one of the first family members to call NEWS10 concerned how Barnwell had treated her father. She says the citation that bothered her the most was on May 13 when the DOH concluded Barnwell allowed staff to move between healthy patients and COVID positive patients without properly using or changing PPE.
“I mean, my father has a lung issue, and he has a heart issue, so you’re really putting his life in jeopardy by allowing that,” Nunez says.
The May 21 citation claims Barnwell didn’t properly separate sick patients from healthy ones. Columbia County Public Health Director Jack Mabb says that one bothered him the most, calling Barnwell administrators frankly irresponsible.
“It spread among the residence there, it’s spread among people that didn’t have it for people that did have it just by being in the same room. That bothered me a lot,” he explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
NEWS10 kept a close eye on Barnwell since the nursing home reported around 120 sick residents and more than three dozen positive staff members throughout May. Mabb says the DOH surveys just serve as proof Barnwell dropped the ball.
“I can give them the benefit of the doubt that at one point, in late May after these visits they were very short of staff, but at the same time, once you figured out that this thing was spreading like crazy in your institution, you should have put the brakes on things and said how do we fix this, how do we stop this, and they just didn’t do it,” Mabb says.
NEWS10 reached out to representatives for the facility’s parent company, The Grand Healthcare System. Vice President Bruce Gendron said he couldn’t answer questions about the new DOH fines.
“I do not have any information on that at all. I am not familiar with what you’re telling me, so I would have to look into it and get back to you,” Gendron replied to a phone request for comment.
Nunez says she’s glad at least problems at Barnwell have come to light. But what she wants to know now is what will fines do to benefit residents?
“If it goes back into help — maybe if they put it towards more PPE or like I said, better wages, okay fine. That’s one thing, but if you’re just taking away from a system that’s already broken, what was the point?” she asks.
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