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Husband: Fulton Center not transparent

GLOVERSVILLE — The husband of a resident of the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare this week shared concerns over the lack of information being provided to families of residents of the nursing home where the coronavirus is known to have spread.

As of May 7, a spokesperson for the Fulton Center stated that 59 residents of the facility were confirmed to have the coronavirus and three individuals had died. At that time, there were 134 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Fulton County, according to data provided by the Fulton County Public Health Department.

The number of cases of the coronavirus in Fulton County now stands at 182, according to the state Department of Health COVID-19 tracker. The spokesperson for the Fulton Center when contacted on Monday seeking an update on the number of confirmed cases of the virus among both residents and staff members at the facility did not address the question in the prepared statement that was returned by email.

The state Department of Health is not releasing data related to confirmed cases of the virus in nursing home facilities, but is releasing statistics on the number of deaths the virus has caused at nursing homes across the state. The DOH is reporting a total of six deaths from the coronavirus have occurred at the Fulton Center between March 1 through Monday. Statistics on coronavirus deaths at nursing homes compiled by the state are based on data provided by individual facilities and does not reflect deaths from the virus that occurred outside of the facilities.

The husband of a current Fulton Center resident on Monday said he has been receiving nearly daily robocalls from the facility stating that a resident has been confirmed to have the coronavirus and three or more residents and staff members are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

Under an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April, nursing homes are required to notify all residents and their family members within 24 hours if any resident tests positive for COVID or if any resident suffers a COVID related death.

But the man who spoke to the Leader-Herald on condition of anonymity said that he does not know exactly how many residents are confirmed to have the virus and he has not been able to speak to Fulton Center staff members about the ongoing situation at the facility despite numerous attempts.

“They have been very lax on giving information to people on the Fulton Center,” the man said. “I have not gotten a call from anybody, the staff there, to tell me what’s going on. They should be more informative.”

The man said he has been able to speak to his wife, who has moderate Alzheimer’s, by phone, but he has been unable to see her while nursing homes statewide remain closed to visitors due to the coronavirus which poses the greatest risk of serious illness to the elderly and those suffering from underlying health conditions. Multiple phone calls to the facility have gone unreturned and attempts to get information from the county or state health departments have not yielded results, the man said.

“I’d just like to know what’s going on there,” he said. “Don’t leave people in the dark.”

The man expressed worry over just how far the virus will spread while sympathizing with Fulton Center staff members who are having to manage the situation, having to worry about contracting the virus and potentially bringing it home to their own families.

“I’m sure they’re overwhelmed,” he said. “The virus is a pretty big issue for the staff and the residents. I’m very worried about everybody there.”

Limited information due to patient privacy laws was been passed along, the man said, by the primary care doctor of his wife and several other residents of the nursing home who was able to visit the facility. The man pointed to details of the situation shared with him by a friend who is a local paramedic who has visited the facility in the course of duty as worrying.

“He says it is quite a hot bed over there. There’s now well over 100 cases,” the man said.

The man noted that he was recently notified that his wife was transferred out of her normal room to another wing of the facility as the first three wings of the Fulton Center are now being used to isolate residents who are confirmed to have the coronavirus.

While his wife does not remember a lot of the details of what is happening, the man said she is now being treated for extreme anxiety at the facility where residents are restricted to their rooms.

“Word gets through the facility they are having problems, I’m sure it upsets people, especially patients. Basically, they’re living in a prison right now,” the man said. “They can’t leave their rooms, they can’t go down the hallway, everything is completely locked down. Most residents don’t have computers, don’t have social media. The only communication they have is by phone.”

Prior to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the man said his wife was happy at the Fulton Center where staff were always informative, meeting with residents and their families once a week.

“My wife was very happy there to begin with, she had no complaints at all and I didn’t. The people were very nice, were very informative,” the man said.

Now, he is calling on the Fulton Center or the state or local health departments to release information about the number of confirmed cases of the virus among residents and staff, compliance with twice a week testing requirements for all staff members under an executive order issued by Cuomo on May 10 and details surrounding measures to control the spread of the virus.

“I’d just like some informative information. I’m not only concerned about my wife, but I’m a concerned citizen of the county and I think we have the right to know what’s going on and how bad it is. And specifically, I would like to know how they’re containing this,” he said.

A prepared statement returned from a spokesperson for the Fulton Center in response to a request for comment on the issues and questions raised by the concerned husband stated that twice weekly testing of facility staff members required by the state will begin today, along with antibody testing. The statement does not include specific details on how testing will be provided.

The spokesperson addressed the husband’s questions over restrictions that have been placed over residents by stating that they are not “in confinement” and are adhering to social distancing protocols by remaining at least six feet from other residents and staff members.

“Residents are not, by any means, isolated from others in confinement where they cannot communicate with others, such as with staff or fellow residents. They do many activities with one another, but still practice social distancing. Fulton Center provides a number of means of communication, such as phone, email, text, Skype, FaceTime, with computer, tablets usage as well as the facilitation of window visits,” the spokesperson stated.

The statement did not include details regarding the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus among residents or staff members. The spokesperson instead pointed to a tool now featured on the Fulton Center’s website to keep families, residents and staff members updated on the “COVID-19 situation in-house.”

A provided link to led to the Fulton Center’s main website that features a message from Centers Health Care CEO Kenneth Rozenberg at the top of the page expressing pride over the courage and commitment staff members have demonstrated while caring for residents amidst the ongoing pandemic. The statement does not address the facility’s response to the coronavirus.

By scrolling past general information about the Fulton Center to the bottom of the main page, a tab bar pops up with an option entitled, “COVID19,” that leads to another page featuring a statement dated from today on the ongoing response to the virus.

“At Fulton Center, we have instituted a series of proactive policies to safeguard the health and safety of our patients, residents and staff. Their wellbeing is–and always has been–our priority. All of these policies are based on recommendations from the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to say that visitation is suspended with virtual visits currently encouraged while anyone who enters the building, including staff, screened for symptoms of the virus and for possible exposure.

Additionally, the statement notes that personal protective equipment is required, social distancing is practiced between residents and cleaning has been increased to include more frequent disinfection of common areas and surfaces.

The statement notes that the Fulton Center submits “detailed information to the DOH in accordance with its reporting requirements and encourages all of its resident’s family members to reach out to our social work staff to facilitate calls and/or virtual visits with their loves [sic] ones to provide their support during this critical time.”

The page also includes data on the number of residents and staff members who tested positive for the coronavirus as of the last reporting dates, stated as running from Sunday through Tuesday. During the three-day reporting period, there were no “in-house” residents or staff who tested positive for the coronavirus or who have had a “new onset of respiratory symptoms.”

The reported information is stated as reflecting only the specified dates and is not cumulative. The page is to be updated daily with information calculated on a seven-day basis “to reflect the last seven days worth of data in our facility.”

“If the above information relates to your loved one, a facility representative will inform the resident’s primary contact directly,” the page goes on to state.

The website can be viewed at fulton-center.facilities.centershealthcare.org.

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