Nursing Homes Undercounting Coronavirus Deaths, Report Suggests

Some New York nursing homes’ internal coronavirus death counts far exceed the official state figures, according to a new report by the New York Post. Staff members at several nursing homes told the paper that a widespread lack of coronavirus testing has resulted in institutions’ inability to attribute deaths to the virus with certainty, leading to confusion about the true number of coronavirus deaths. One nursing home resident advocate suggested that some facilities may have “taken advantage” of the confusion to be less than transparent about fatalities.

The Post report cites a few nursing homes in which internal documents reflect a higher death count than figures released by the state. Cypress Garden Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Flushing, Queens sustained 76 deaths between March 1 and May 2, whereas the state described seven deaths. Seagate Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Coney Island suffered 74 deaths through May 1, whereas the state described 25. And Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Woodbury suffered 115 deaths through May 8, whereas the state described 23.

The former head of nursing at Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, who stopped working at the facility in March, told the post that “only one resident had been tested for COVID-19 by the time she left,” and that before the virus struck, roughly five residents would die in an average month.

Nursing homes have attributed death rates to lack of testing and unclear guidance from health officials. In March, the New York Department of Health directed nursing homes that they don’t need tests, and that they should “presume that residents with COVID-19 symptoms have the bug.” Authorities have “changed requirements about which deaths to include in its reports,” and stopped counting nursing home residents who died in a hospital rather than their nursing home facility. Then there was the state policy requiring nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients from hospitals, a policy the state only reversed last week. One nursing home resident’s family member told the Post that those patients “set off the fire” in nursing homes, because healthcare workers cared for both the newly admitted residents as well as residents without the virus.

“They were definitely hiding the fact that they had all these cases,” one woman, whose mother-in-law died of a presumed COVID-19 case at a nursing home, told the Post. “They basically just swept it under the rug.”

Richard Mollot, Executive Director of the Long Term Community Care Coalition, told the post, “I think some providers have taken advantage of a situation where there is confusion… They can unfortunately really game the system here in terms of being forthright, being honest with residents and families.”

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.

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