New York Sent Recovering Coronavirus Patients to Nursing Homes: ‘It Was a Fatal Error’
In late March, Dottie Hickey got a call from Luxor Nursing & Rehabilitation at Mills Pond, the nursing home where her sister lived. The 79-year-old was being moved to make space for incoming hospital patients recovering from coronavirus. Ms. Hickey was told the St. James, N.Y., facility had no choice but to take in these patients under a new state policy.
Ms. Hickey said that after a few days she struggled to reach staff for updates on her sister, and after repeated calls, one employee told her why. The nursing home was overwhelmed with cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Luxor Nursing & Rehabilitation had no confirmed coronavirus cases before the patients moved in, and can’t say if any arrived while still infectious, a spokesman said. But he added: Luxor “would not have accepted [the patients] without this directive.”
After mounting criticism and thousands of deaths in New York nursing homes—including several individual facilities that have lost more than 50 residents—the state on Sunday reversed the mandate, which said nursing homes couldn’t refuse to accept patients from hospitals who had been diagnosed with Covid-19. New York now says hospitals can send patients to nursing homes only if they have tested negative for the virus.
The policy before the U-turn is one of several decisions the state made that are now coming under fire, as New York’s death toll tied to nursing homes rises, to 5,398 presumed and confirmed fatalities as of May 12, more than any other state and a significant part of New York’s total deaths.
“The state has failed to protect the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Ron Kim, a Democratic member of the state Assembly whose Queens district has seen many nursing-home deaths. “The fact we maintained and pushed Covid-positive patients into facilities that were not equipped to handle them, it was a fatal error.”