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Columbia County officials say Valatie nursing home sent coronavius patients to hospitals to die

Aug 12, 2020 6:29 am
Joe Sexton and Joaquin Sapien report at ProPublica that Columbia County officials say a nursing home in Valatie sent 18 residents with coronavirus to die at hospitals to cover up their own mortality statistics. Officials from the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell deny the allegations. A nurse with the Columbia County Health Department first noticed the 18 deaths over five weeks, mostly in May. The deaths mostly occurred at the Albany Medical Center and Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson. “For me,” said Jack Mabb, the Columbia County Health Director, “it appeared they were sending people to the hospital so they wouldn’t die in the facility.” Mabb said New York's change in the tabulation of nursing home deaths this spring could have incentivized the behavior. Currently, many Republicans and Democrats in Albany are calling for an independent investigation of what happened with nursing homes and coronavirus patients this spring, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's policies around nursing homes. More than 6,500 nursing home residents died from COVID-19 this year, about six percent of the state’s nursing home population. “There are very few legitimate reasons for a nursing home to send seriously ill residents with do-not-resuscitate orders to a hospital unless there is a real chance that their conditions could be improved,” Mabb said. “We flagged it for the state. We told the Department of Health we thought something big was going on.” In May, Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader asked the state to investigate Barnwell sending dying residents to hospitals. Bruce Gendron, a vice president of the company that operates the Barnwell nursing home and 15 others, said that residents only would have been sent if they needed care that the home could not provide. Mabb said he had only received two death notifications from the Barnwell home, while the state Health Department reports online that 12 people died at the Valatie facility. Mabb says he counts 18 deaths of Barnwell residents at hospitals, and that he does not trust information coming from either the state or officials with Barnwell. Read more about this story at ProPublica.