On March 25, New York’s Health Department issued a mandate that state nursing homes could not refuse COVID-19-positive patients who were “medically stable,” meaning facilities that housed the most vulnerable populations were forced to introduce the virus into their midst.
A nursing home in Queens received two coronavirus patients who had been discharged from a hospital (but were still contagious and in need of care) – along with a box containing body bags, The New York Post reported. An executive at the facility told the Post it had been free of the coronavirus prior to accepting those two patients. The executive also said that along with the two patients arrived a shipment of personal protective equipment and the body bags.
“My colleague noticed that one of the boxes was extremely heavy. Curious as to what could possibly be making that particular box so much heavier than the rest, he opened it,” the executive told the Post. “The first two coronavirus patients were accompanied by five body bags.”
The Post reported that within days, “three of the bags were filled with the first of 30 residents who would die there.” The nursing facility continued to receive shipments of five body bags per week since those first two patients arrived – and they have been needed.
“Cuomo has blood on his hands. He really does. There’s no way to sugarcoat this,” the nursing home executive told the outlet. “Why in the world would you be sending coronavirus patients to a nursing home, where the most vulnerable population to this disease resides?”
The executive added that their facility has admitted 17 coronavirus-positive patients from nearby facilities and that they have done fairly well, while the patients who died were not tested or were waiting for test results.
“The rest of the people are dropping like flies — literally like flies — and most of them have been with us for years,” the executive said.
The Post reported that “COVID-19 has killed at least 3,540 residents of New York’s nursing homes and adult care facilities as of Wednesday, according to the most recent state Health Department data.”
Further, the Queens nursing facility is not alone in having the coronavirus injected into their facility due to the mandate from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) administration.
A nursing facility in Manhattan confirmed the Queens executive’s situation, saying they also receive weekly shipments of body bags and added that the state mandate included no warning or time to prepare for accepting coronavirus patients.
“By the time I even got to the work the next day, I had phone calls, emails from just about every hospital in the area,” an administrator told the Post. The administrator added that previously, the facility required “two negative test results before we’d even consider taking someone into the building.”
Cuomo’s office told the Post that the claim the governor has “blood on his hands” was “disgusting” and an attempt by nursing home administrators “to deflect from their failures.” Cuomo had previously said facilities that couldn’t care for COVID-19 patients were supposed to transfer them elsewhere and that they could ask the state Health Department for help with the transfer, but the March 25 mandate does not include instructions on how to do so.
Cuomo suggested at a coronavirus briefing in Albany that the nursing homes weren’t transferring patients because they’d lose money.
“And the regulation is common sense: If you can’t provide adequate care, you can’t have the patient in your facility and that’s your basic fiduciary obligation — I would say, ethical obligation — and it’s also your legal obligation,” he said. “Now, when a person gets transferred, they lose a patient, they lose that revenue, I understand, but the relationship is, the contract is, ‘You have this resident, you get paid, you must provide adequate care.’”