Borough President Eric Adams and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams held a virtual press conference regarding the threat nursing home residents continue to face during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two talked to a woman who has a parent in a nursing home in the borough.
The two elected officials also demanded an investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office into conditions in nursing homes throughout the city and state and more stringent requirements around personal protective equipment for all nursing home employees.
“We cannot wait until this crisis is over and have this post coronavirus review,” Adams said during the conference. We must look at areas where we can right the ship now and ensure that we deal with some of the crises on the ground.”
He added that, “The virus does not discriminate but policies and practices and procedures in the city , state and country continue to discriminate in those communities that are poor and of color. Nothing really personifies that more than what is happening in nursing homes. I received a number of calls from nursing home residents who have family members who have reached out to me. We have one very concerned member of a person who is in a nursing home and they are concerned about what they have witnessed. They are a representative of the many calls we have received to our office about what is happening in nursing home facilities.”
Adams also discussed how people who have family members in nursing homes are concerned about how they are being treated.
“Many of the family members feel as though their loved ones in nursing homes are treated like they are detainees,” he said. “They can visit or see them. They are in solitary confinement in many cases. They feel this is traumatizing. It will have a long term impact on the health of many of the seniors who are in these nursing home facilities.”
Adams also brought up a statistic provided by the New York Times that 25 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in New York City have been nursing home related.
Williams thanked the woman, who didn’t want to be named, for telling her story.
“I want to thank the Jane Doe for coming forward with the courage to share her experience is,” he said. “Sadly we know and understand that she is not alone. She is not speaking on behalf of her story alone. She’s speaking on behalf of a whole story with a lot of people who are going through terrible ordeals when we didn’t have to.”
He also spoke about some of the phone calls his office have received.
“We’ve gotten calls about bodies being piled on in nursing homes in Brooklyn,” he said. “This virus didn’t create the problem. They are highlighting and exacerbating problems that already exist.”
He added that, “Many of these things were foreseeable. The people who are most vulnerable were most vulnerable before the coronavirus came about.”
Through Eric Adams, the Jane Doe shared some of her recent struggles as her family member is in a nursing home.
“Right now the residents appear to be detainees,” the woman told Adams. “There are little activities. They’ve been situated in their rooms and the doors are closed. They have a roommate. That’s all the communication they may have.
She also told Adams, “I don’t know how she’s eating. I knew I would take food for her. Lack of staff.
She said before the coronavirus, the family member was quite vibrant. Now she’s lethargic, which has created a real concern.
She also told Adams about the staff.
“The staff have brought more disease in cross contaminating,” she told Adams.”The staff is coming from the streets, taking trains, cabs and buses. They don’t change their clothes when they get to the job. They are bringing diseases to the residents. Now you deny the families from interfacing with the residents so it’s not the families bringing in the diseases. It’s the staff.”
Following the conference, Adams took to Facebook to share his feelings.
“I’m proud to stand with Public Advocate Williams and a brave whistleblower to help shine much-needed light on dangerous nursing home conditions amid COVID-19,” he wrote on Facebook. We’ve both received calls on a lack of PPE, long periods spent in isolation, and makeshift morgues.Nursing home staff must have an adequate supply of PPE, residents need teleconferencing access, and we MUST empower New York State Attorney General James to create a reporting hotline and be allowed to conduct random inspects that ensure safety measures are being followed.”