Letter: Nursing Homes and the Pandemic

Dear Editor,

The following is my reaction to the response the governor of New York State has made to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly regarding Upstate New York.

In the Town of Barton we have the Elderwood Nursing Facility, which can accommodate 200 patients; at the present time, there are approximately 160 patients at that facility.

As of May 2, the COVID-19 virus has affected Tioga County with 103 positive cases. Well over 50 of these cases are at the Elderwood Nursing Facility. At (that) time, ALL COVID-19 deaths in Tioga County have been at Elderwood. This just isn’t acceptable.

The most vulnerable people we have are in these nursing homes throughout New York State, and yet the Governor has ordered already hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients to be transferred to nursing homes from hospitals, exposing both the staff and the defenseless and oftentimes distressed patients to this dreaded disease. This is essentially a death warrant for many nursing home patients. 

There have been patients who have gone into a nursing home to receive simple rehabilitation after a surgical procedure and they’ve come out dead due to contracting COVID-19 while they were in there. That’s simply tragic.

The owners of the nursing homes have not had the proper equipment available to their staff, and the patients haven’t been taken care of in the manner in which they should. 

The blame can’t be placed entirely on these overworked employees; it’s more in line with the fault being blamed on the Governor for not being prepared for a pandemic situation years ago. He’s now telling hospitals to stockpile three months’ worth of ventilators and PPE. Where were New York State’s ventilators when this crisis hit? Oh, that’s right. There were none because the Governor ignored the Health Department’s previous recommendation to stockpile thousands of units just for situations such as this pandemic. 

The Governor indicates that he regulates the nursing homes. If so, he should start regulating. These nursing homes should have had the proper equipment to deal with these COVID-19 patients right from the beginning; there’s no excuse that such basic and needed equipment wouldn’t be available at any nursing home.

Nursing homes receive enormous amounts of money each month for the care of their patients, and the owners of these facilities should also have been better prepared to protect their patients and their staff so that these deaths could have been prevented.

It’s time that everyone owns up to their mistakes regarding their lack of preparation for this pandemic and learn from it. There’s never a guarantee another pandemic won’t occur again in our lifetime.


Dick Cary

Town of Barton Supervisor

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