Dozens protest concerns with nursing homes

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Over 60 people lined the sidewalk outside The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at 801 North James St. Thursday afternoon to call attention to conditions there and at other facilities like it. Ruth Wallace, whose mother’s video of conditions inside as a resident went viral, led a call for more training for staff and other improvements.

RaeJean Wallace posted a tearful video to Facebook describing her concerns about a lack of adequate medical care at the facility that has been compounded by coronavirus infections in the last few months.

Ruth Wallace and dozens of others stood outside Thursday to demand more for the patients there. “Maybe a little more training,” Wallace said, holding signs for former residents who have died there. “I love my mother and I want her taken care of.” She had a sign for Leonard Vetere and Michael Grifasi, roommates who died within eight days of each other in April at the 160-bed facility.

Wallace urged those with loved ones at nursing facilities to check in with them, especially in the age of COVID-19. “I don’t think my mom has gotten the best care,” she said. RaeJean Wallace is at The Grand for rehabilitation and is not a long-term patient, she noted.

Wallace made it clear there are many great nurses, supervisors and other employees at The Grand and elsewhere in the industry, but, she said, they don’t work every hour of every day. Some just need more training. Others shouldn’t be in the business of care, she added. “It has to be weeded out,” she said of those who are not a good fit.

“You feel pressure every day to pick them up,” Wallace said of taking loved ones out of facilities with poor care. But, she noted, some like her mother need specialized care they can’t get just anywhere.

Sandra Payne of Rome has a sister at The Grand. Gloria Phillips, formerly a long-time employee of Rome Memorial Hospital, has been a resident at The Grand for about six years. She and Phillips’ daughter, Thelma Stone, both said she’s not getting adequate care, and employees don’t follow up on questions about bathing, feeding and dressing her. “At least get good care,” Payne said. Residents should “not be neglected.”

Stone said that a certified nursing assistant is a job that requires passion for helping patients, and such facilities need employees with such commitment.

The issue is getting attention on a state level, as hearings are being conducted by lawmakers in Albany. There were also reports of a review of The Grand specifically by the Department of Health. “The safety and wellbeing of nursing home residents is of paramount importance to the Department of Health. The Department is conducting an investigation at The Grand Nursing Facility in Rome. As the investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further,” said New York State Department of Health Public information Officer Jill Montag in a statement.

Bruce Gendron, vice president of The Grand Healthcare System, confirmed that the state was investigating and added that the measure is routine.

“We are confident it will be unfounded,” Gendron said regarding Wallace’s allegations. “We don’t agree with the things (RaeJean Wallace) said in the video … (but) everyone is free to speak their mind. … We want to be transparent about everything. We try to work with everyone.”

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