NEW YORK - “He might die,” Katarzyna Lewczuk said, worried about her father. "The last time I saw him was on Valentine’s Day,” she told NY1 as she choked back tears.
Her father is in a nursing home and was diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s a fear thousands of families of nursing home residents face, made worse some say, by New York State’s March 25th mandate that nursing homes cannot deny “re-admission or admission…solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”
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That has resulted in hospitals sending recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes at which they weren’t even staying.
”Why would they be sending COVID patients to the nursing home? Who came up with this idea? Why would they think this was a sane idea,” asked Lewczuk. "It's crazy.”
"The primary reason is that the State of New York is mandating that nursing homes accept COVID positive cases in order to reduce pressure on the hospitals," said Hebrew Home At Riverdale CEO Daniel Reingold.
Reingold says he’s coordinating with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and has opened a separate 22 bed wing for COVID-19 patients and his staff has adequate personal protective equipment.
“We’re in a position to take good care of these people. They’re in a segregated unit. They’re quarantined. The staff that’s taking care of them are completely isolated from any other residents of the Hebrew Home and we feel that this is a reasonable and safe compromise to help out in a public health crises,” said Reingold.
“It is really is not in the best interest of nursing home residents and their staff to continue to require those facilities to accept COVID-19 positive patients or those suspected of COVID-19 if they were not residents prior to that hospitalization,” said The New York State Health Facilities Association President and CEO Stephen Hanse.
The trade group represents hundreds of nursing homes and adult care facilities in New York and Hanse says the policy doesn't make sense.
According to numbers released by the State Department of Health, nearly one in five state COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home residents.
Hanse says with some nursing homes across the state continuing to struggle with shortages of Personal Protective Equipment, and the reduction of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations, and the addition of thousands of new hospital beds, the state should change its mandate.
“It should be revoked now and when it was put in place it should have been on a case by case basis,” said Hanse.
Lewczuk doesn't see any good reason to bring COVID-19 patients near her father. She says he's improving despite state policy.
“Why are you bringing more risk into this already crazy situation,” she said.
The State Department of Health did not respond to NY1’s request for comment.
On Monday, the State Health Commissioner said his agency works with nursing homes to help them house COVID-19 patients separately.