Griffo: Overhaul of nursing home industry may be needed


In the wake of COVID-19/coronavirus impacts on daily life, lawmakers and protesters alike are calling attention to the loss of life and quality of care issues at nursing home facilities due to the pandemic virus.

Hearings are being conducted this week and next with the New York State Senate regarding activities at nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers grilled state health department officials on Monday about the steep, though ultimately unknown death toll at the state’s nursing homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Department of Health reports nearly 6,600 residents who had or likely had COVID-19 died at nursing homes and adult-care facilities, including 6,400 nursing home residents. The state hasn’t disclosed how many nursing home residents died at hospitals, or how many residents have been infected with COVID-19, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Local elected officials are jumping in the fray.

New York State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, is calling for a complete review and potential overhaul of the nursing home industry, as well as broad participation in the current review hearings by individuals from all facets of the nursing home industry - from primary care to those in charge of food and activities at the facilities.

The COVID-19 — related nursing home deaths first began mounting in the U.S. in March. About two dozen deaths were being reported daily in the middle of that month. By late in the month, hundreds were being reported each day, and in April thousands. Most happened in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast.

“New York State’s handling of nursing homes during this public health crisis has resulted in the tragic loss of life and the unnecessary spread of the virus between staff and residents and is still deserving of an independent outside investigation as we have requested. It also has brought to light many systematic failures in the nursing home industry as a whole,” Griffo said in a statement. “We have seen too many nursing home residents die alone and in substandard and unacceptable conditions. I am calling for dramatic, substantive and immediate change in the nursing home industry, which cost so much but gives so little.”

The problem has been amplified by a severe curbing of family contact during virus lockdowns for people living in the facilities.

Griffo is supporting a bill that would “allow a patient or their family to have an electronic monitoring device such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home installed in his or her room at the expense of the individual or their family. The legislation, which is in the Senate’s Health Committee, would allow families to stay connected to their loved ones and ensure that they are receiving the proper care that they deserve…,” according to a statement.

The need for this is underscored locally.

In recent days, a tearful video shared by Raejean Wallace has gone viral. In the video, Wallace, a resident at The Grand on North James Street describes not getting adequate health care regarding a swollen foot and ankle and lack of adequate care regarding other residents such as not changing of adult diapers and bedding, and on at least one occasion a man with dementia being able to exit the facility without anyone knowing.

Compounding the issue, Wallace said family members was not being able to visit the facility due to coronavirus restrictions.

“These patients are being treated terrible … It’s a nightmare here,” Wallace said in her video.

A message seeking comment from The Grand was not immediately returned.

According to social media posts, there will be a peaceful — and socially distant — assembly at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday in front of The Grand at 801 North James St.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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