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Closed Orchard Park nursing home to reopen as Covid-19 facility

A closed Orchard Park nursing home is expected to reopen next week to exclusively care for Covid-19 patients, two sources told The Buffalo News Thursday.

With a surge expected in the number of novel coronavirus cases at local nursing homes, the move would reduce the risk of infection among the frail population by providing a new facility for infected residents to be transferred, according to the sources.

The closed Absolut Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Orchard Park is also expected to admit members of the public who are sick with the virus but do not require hospitalization.

Partnering on the project are Catholic Health – which already operates Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus, as a COVID-19 treatment facility – and the McGuire Group, which operates five highly rated nursing homes in this region, the sources said.

Initially, there would be 80 beds in the nursing home with the possibility of expanding that number, the sources said. The number of required workers has not yet been established.

The request to authorize the reopening of the facility is pending with the state Department of Health.

Jeffrey Hammond, DOH spokesman, said, "The request is currently under review."

The former Absolut facility would reopen under an extension of the operating license of Father Baker Manor, another Orchard Park nursing home that is part of Catholic Health.

If the state approves the license extension, it is expected the facility will reopen April 10.

Under state guidelines, nursing homes cannot discriminate against individuals with Covid-19. That has left them scrambling to find ways to adhere to the state's rules but prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.

The 202-bed Absolut nursing home closed last October after Israel Sherman, chief operating officer of the Absolut chain, filed for bankruptcy reorganization.

The chain was subsequently purchased by Long Island businessman Edward Farbenblum, a majority co-owner of the McGuire Group’s nursing homes.

Farbenblum declined to comment on the possibility of the reopening. JoAnn Cavanaugh, Catholic Health's public relations director, also declined to comment.

The News has also learned that Local 1199, SEIU, has reached an agreement with the McGuire Group on the terms under which union nursing home workers will be assigned to the Orchard Park facility, which had previously employed 234 workers.

Unionized certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses will come from other McGuire facilities in the region, according to one of the sources.

Last week, the Elderwood nursing home chain opened up a 22-bed Covid-19-only unit in a sealed-off wing, with its own entrance, at its Bailey Avenue nursing home in Amherst.

Kaleida Health has partnered with Elderwood to send discharged hospital patients still recovering from Covid-19 to that facility.

As of Thursday, there had not been any admissions to the special unit, according to Chuck Hayes, spokesman for Elderwood.

"I anticipate, however, that admissions will begin any day now," Hayes said.

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