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THE EDITORIAL BOARD

As Covid-19 spreads in nursing homes, staff must keep relatives in the loop

Few institutions have been thrown into as much upheaval during the coronavirus crisis as hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities. However, that does not excuse them from keeping patients and their families well-informed about the patients’ health.

Two incidents reported in The News this past week underscore the need for transparency.

When Donna Lee, of Springville, learned that her mother was recovering from Covid-19 in the Cheektowaga nursing home where she lives, the news took her by surprise. The Garden Gate Health Care Facility did not inform Lee for two days that her mother had come down with the virus.

Lee only found out when a social worker phoned her on Monday evening to report that her mom’s fever had gone down and her condition was stable. The facility knew that 81-year-old Barbara Celotto had been diagnosed with the virus on Saturday.

Albert Massaro told The News that his 77-year-old mother was discharged from Father Baker Manor in Orchard Park on March 27, after a rehabilitation respite. Testing at the facility later showed that 41 residents and 25 employees were positive for Covid-19. Massaro’s mother is now hospitalized and being treated for the virus.

There is no proof that she caught Covid-19 at Father Baker Manor, but management of the facility should have notified recently discharged patients of the risk once the recent outbreak was discovered.

Keeping family members informed of significant changes in a resident’s health is one of the obligations of nursing homes, mandated by the state Health Department. Celotto, the Garden Gate resident, has a heart condition and suffers from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, putting her in a high-risk category for susceptibility to being damaged by the coronavirus. That description applies to many people in nursing homes, many of which are being hit hard by coronavirus throughout the state. On April 4, The Health Department issued a new requirement that nursing homes notify residents and their families or loved ones on the same day when there is a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19.

According to Lee, Garden Gate knew the results of Lee’s test for Covid-19 four hours after it was given on Saturday. Her family should have been promptly notified.

Trying to keep people well during a health crisis is no doubt leaving nursing home staff and resources stretched thin. But keeping families informed about problems isn’t just a nice extra – it’s a requirement.

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