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Nursing home hit with second-highest federal fine in N.Y. for Covid-19 violations

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    BUFFALO, New York (The Buffalo News) — A recently imposed $50,869 fine against a Buffalo nursing home where workers failed to follow measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 represents the second-biggest federal penalty against a long-term care facility in the state.

During a Covid-19-focused inspection last spring at the Buffalo Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, inspectors observed a certified nursing assistant and housekeeper entering the rooms of Covid-19-infected residents and then entering the rooms of uninfected residents without changing into new personal protective equipment and taking other precautions.

Several other staff members were seen failing to practice social distancing and either wearing their face masks improperly or not wearing masks when in close proximity to others, according to an April 30 state Health Department inspection report that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited for issuing the steep fine.

The Albion nursing home is one of 20 under investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a $66,632 fine, its biggest in New York State for Covid-19 related violations, against the Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center nursing home in Albion, based on a May 9 state inspection.

Jeffrey Jacomowitz, spokesman for the Buffalo Center at 1014 Delaware Ave., said steps have been taken to further educate the facility’s staff of more than 300 employees on the proper use of personal protective equipment.

Soon after the pandemic struck last year, nursing homes in the state were closed to visitation to try and prevent the spread of the deadly virus, but thousands of frail residents nevertheless perished over the coming months. State health inspectors initiated Covid-19-focused inspections, issuing hundreds of citations that required long-term care facilities to implement plans of correction.

And, like the federal government, the state issued fines on nursing homes where infection control violations were discovered. In fact, the violations cited in the May inspection at the Villages of Orleans nursing home resulted in a $20,000 state fine on top of the federal fine of $66,632.

The report on the April 30 inspection at Buffalo Center cited a certified nursing assistant’s failure to change into a clean gown after assisting a Covid-19-positive resident and then assisting an uninfected resident. The report stated:

“CNA #1, wearing a disposable gown, held Resident #1’s hand and walked the resident to their bed and assisted them into the bed. While wearing the same disposable gown, CNA #1 exited the room, walked down the hallway and entered the room of non-Covid-19 Resident #2. As CNA #1 assisted the non-Covid-19 Resident #2 with adjusting their under clothing, Resident 2 supported themselves by placing their hand on the arm and shoulder of CNA #1, touching the CNA’s gown.”

Families are upset that they still aren’t allowed to have contact visits with relatives in nursing homes.

In another instance involving a housekeeper, the inspection report stated that the worker failed to perform proper hand hygiene and change into a fresh pair of gloves after mopping the room of a resident infected with the virus. The report stated:

“While wearing the same gloves…the housekeeper wiped down the hallway handrails and exterior doorknobs of rooms 407, 408, 409, 410, 411, 412, 413, and 414 … .”

Using the same mop and pail of water, the housekeeper, according to the report, “entered a non-Covid-19 room and mopped the floor using the same mop and water that was used for the Covid-19 positive room.”

In re-training employees on correct infection control practices, Jacomowitz said that the actions of the housekeeper and certified nursing assistant were used “as an example to the staff on what not to do.”

Adrienne K. Johnson, 60, a full-time cook at Williamsville Suburban and part-time kitchen worker at Terrace View Long Term Care, died Dec. 20, four days after testing positive for Covid-19.

The 200-bed Buffalo Center, which has an overall one-star rating by CMS, has had 18 residents die of Covid-19 in the facility. Seven other Covid-19 positive residents were transferred to a hospital or another facility where they died of the virus, according to the most recent state Health Department statistics.

Jacomowitz said that, to date, 163 residents and 17 staff members have recovered from Covid-19 at the Buffalo Center.

The Buffalo Center and Ellicott Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, another one-star rated nursing home in Buffalo, are operated by Centers Health Care, which is based in New York City.

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