New York Knew of Nursing Home’s Leaky Roof for Seven Years

New York nursing home regulators knew an upstate nursing home’s roof leaked for four years before finally forcing the owner to fix the safety hazard. According to, the state Health Department inspection records show reports of “water-stained ceiling tiles” and “a hose running down from the ceiling of a resident’s room into a rusty bucket” dating back in 2015 and 2016. The Health Department is responsible for inspecting nursing homes in New York every 16 months.

After noticing the leaky roof in 2015, inspectors worked with Pontiac Nursing Home to fix the ceiling tiles and the leaky roof. Despite the clearly hazardous conditions, the upstate nursing home never implemented the plan. Consequently, the ceiling was still leaking when inspectors returned in 2016. With the water collecting in a “rusty bucket,” nursing home employees assured state regulators that the slip-and-fall danger was only temporary and the leak had been fixed three months earlier.

Because of Pontiac Nursing Home’s numerous health violations, the inspectors returned only a few months later. With the roof still leaking, the nursing home’s maintenance director told the inspectors that “… he had been telling the owner of the building it needed a new roof for 7 years, and for 7 years he had been applying band-aids to leaks.” Unsurprisingly, documenting the safety violation for the third time failed to fix the roof.

In fact, the Health Department did not play a role in Pontiac Nursing Home finally fixing their roof. A nursing home resident finally complained to the City of Oswego about the leak and poor living conditions. The City of Oswego fined the nursing home $5,000 and threatened to shut down the facility if it did not fix its numerous safety violations. Oswego Mayor William Barlow lamented to the newspaper, “It’s disappointing the Department of Health knew about this and didn’t take more forceful action.”

In response to questions about Pontiac Nursing Home’s repeated failure to fix its roof and the Health Department’s repeated failure to force the nursing home, the state agency equivocated, telling that, “The Department has cited the Pontiac Nursing Home for multiple maintenance and housekeeping issues, which the facility subsequently addressed.” The failure to follow up on safety violations is disturbingly common, though. A report by the federal government found that the New York Department of Health did not verify whether a nursing home corrected its safety or health code violation 72 percent of the time.

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