Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn, New York suffered one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in New York, according to recent news reports. An April 20, 2020 article by the Associated Press states that the facility listed 55 deaths by that date, “among the most of any such facility in the country.” The AP report states further that of 8,003 nursing home deaths it counted across the United States, one-third took place in New York.
In an interview with the AP, Cobble Hill Health Center’s Chief Executive Officer, Danny Tuchman, said that “he believes many other homes have more deaths than Cobble Hill but his has been singled out for its honesty.” He noted that a state survey of nursing home deaths did not require nursing homes to comply, and that he included “possible” COVID-19 fatalities in his response, emphasizing that Cobble Hill Health Center did not have testing kits and as such could not test any of its residents for the coronavirus. Tuchman told the AP that he did not know how the coronavirus entered the facility, acknowledging that it may have been carried by a paramedic or other staffer who was not symptomatic.
The AP’s interviews with the friends and family of facility residents described an “overwhelmed an unequipped” nursing home suffering from staff shortages, as well as shortages of personal protective equipment. One person with a parent at the facility told the AP, “They were under siege.” Another, whose uncle was a facility resident who died, told the AP that he was surprised that facility administrators did not contact him “to tell us anything like this or basically bring this to our attention.” A third, whose friend was a resident at the facility, told the AP that the virus’s proliferation through the facility did not surprise her, citing residents’ “cramped quarters,” narrow hallways and rule forbidding residents from opening windows. According to another report by the New York Post, one resident’s daughter said that the facility was not separating COVID-19 patients from residents who had not been diagnosed with the disease.
According to the facility’s Department of Health profile, Cobble Hill Health Center received 21 citations for health and safety code violations between 2016 and 2020. One citation, in May 2019, found that the facility did not ensure the sanitary handling of food. An inspector specifically observed a dietary worker touching raw food without gloves on; a dietary worker covering a pan of cooked chicken with foil “after touching the lid of a garbage can”; and a dietary worker conducting a lunch meal service without wearing a hairnet. In an interview, the latter staffer stated that she recognized she needed to wear a hairnet during food service because if hair makes contact with food, “the food will be nasty, there will be bacteria and it is not healthy.”
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.