New York Denies Nursing Home’s Coronavirus Patients Admittance to Underused Federal Hospitals

Emergency medical workers arrive at Cobble Hill Health Center, Friday, April 17, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The despair wrought on nursing homes by the coronavirus was laid bare Friday in a state survey identifying numerous New York facilities where multiple patients have died. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/AP Photo

Coronavirus patients at a Brooklyn nursing home were denied admission to both of the medical facilities established in New York to handle victims of the pandemic even though beds were mostly empty.

The New York Post obtained access to email from the CEO of the Cobble Hill Health Center to state officials seeking to relocate sick residents.

“We don’t have the ability to cohort right now based on staffing and we really want to protect our other patients,” Cobble Hill CEO Donny Tuchman wrote in the chain of the emails.

“He was denied,” the Post reported.

“I was told those facilities were only for hospitals” to send their overflow patients, Tuchman said in the Post report:

New York health officials were warned in writing that a Brooklyn nursing home where 55 patients have died of coronavirus was overwhelmed — weeks before it began topping the state’s official list of resident COVID-19 deaths, damning emails show.

Cobble Hill Health Center CEO Donny Tuchman sent a desperate email to state Health Department officials on April 9, asking if there was “a way for us to send our suspected covid patients” to the hospital built inside the Javits Convention Center or the US Naval hospital ship Comfort — the under-utilized federal medical facilities on Manhattan’s West Side.

At the time Tuchman sent his plea, only 134 of the 1,000 beds at the Javits Center were full and the Comfort — which had just been reconfigured to treat up to 500 COVID-19 patients — had a mere 62 on board.

The Post reported that when the article was published, Cobble Hill led the state in nursing home deaths.

“That figure remained stable as of Thursday, the latest date for which statistics were available, and was followed by 51 at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation in Queens,” the Post reported. “Kings Harbor Multicare Center in The Bronx, Franklin Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Queens, and Carmel Richmond Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Staten Island were next, with 45 deaths each.”

Tuchman told the Post on Friday that the shortages of protective gear got so bad staffers resorted to wearing trash bags as protection.

“This has been a very sad and painful experience,” Tuchman said. “Once the virus gets into the building it is very, very hard to control.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) also said on Thursday that any nursing home that could not provide for a coronavirus patient could ask the Health Department to transfer the patient elsewhere, and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said he had not heard of a nursing home official making such a request.

“To be clear: We engaged in conversation with Mr. Tuchman on more than one occasion regarding staffing,” Health Department spokesman Gary Holmes said a statement and cited a survey the department had taken of Cobble Hill. “He wanted additional help, but stated he was able to meet basic needs under the directive — which included having adequate facilities.”

“Additionally, as we track inventory for all facilities daily, our records indicate they have more than a week’s supply of N95 masks, two month’s supply of surgical masks, and nearly two week’s supply of gloves,” Holmes said.

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