Whistleblowers: Hebrew Home in Riverdale Conceals Covid Deaths

Staffers at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York allege that the nursing home has covered up almost a hundred COVID-19-related deaths, according to a May 9, 2020 report in the New York Post.

Whistleblowers say that whereas the nursing home has officially reported 25 resident deaths from confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in March and April, the true number is 119. Both numbers exceed the 18 deaths recorded by the New York State Department of Health as of May 8, according to the Post, which notes that the state “does not include nursing-home residents who die in hospitals in its official count.”

The Post report goes on to state that Hebrew Home employees were also “ravaged” by the virus, with documents reflecting at least 71 staffers suffering from confirmed cases of the coronavirus. 35 people died at Hebrew Home in March, according to the Post, and 84 in April, with eleven deaths occurring over one two-day period. Sources told the Post, “There were so many bodies that an empty building on campus, the Catholic church’s former Cardinal Spellman Retreat House, was turned into a temporary morgue.”

One of the anonymous Hebrew Home whistleblowers told the Post that the facility declined to report accurate death counts to the state “because everyone will assume the worst.” The whistleblowers alleged that Hebrew Home “is barely testing residents,” taking advantage of a dearth of test results to avoid identifying confirmed case upon a resident’s death. According to the Post, state authorities are “aware of allegations” at Hebrew Home, and have initiated a probe into the facility after receiving a complaint about “non-clinical staff being mandated to come in.”

Hebrew Home internal records reflect a spate of positive cases within the facility, with “at least 41 residents” testing positive for the virus between March 18 and May 6. Affected employees included “a doctor, a nurse, aides,” and recreational and human resources employees. Hebrew Home told the Post that it had “complied with all New York State Department of Health regulations and guidelines,” claiming that it had been transparent in its “communications and reporting of suspected and confirmed covid cases and deaths.” State authorities, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have said that nursing homes who report false fatality numbers may be prosecuted for fraud.

The facility’s spokeswoman told the Post: “From the earliest moments of this crisis, we created three independent covid recovery floors to help protect this vulnerable population and help them to heal so that hospitals could tend to sicker patients. The second morgue on our South Campus opened to provide deceased residents with dignity and respect because funeral homes did not have the capacity to handle the volume of deaths in New York City.”

According to its New York State Health Profile, Hebrew Home in Riverdale is a non-profit facility with 843 beds. The facility received 38 citations for violations of health and safety code between 2016 and 2020. One 2019 citation found that the facility did not ensure the maintenance of infection control practices, with a state inspector observing residents with oxygen tubing lying on the floor, multiple resident rooms with oxygen devices stored without proper covering, and a nurse failing to perform appropriate hand hygiene while caring for a resident’s wound.

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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