Attorney: No active virus cases at Newfane Rehab

James Neiss/staff photographer An attorney representing Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center said Friday that the nursing home no longer has any active cases of COVID-19 infection and that all residents who previously tested positive for the virus have now resolved.

An attorney representing Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center said Friday that the nursing home no longer has any active cases of COVID-19 infection and that all residents who previously tested positive for the virus have now resolved.

A representative for the nursing home said residents who previously tested positive have been symptom free for 14 days following the result of their tests. Per New York State Department of Health, those residents remain on precautions but are not actively infected with the virus, attorney Julie M. Bargnesi, who is representing Newfane Rehab, said in a prepared statement. 

Last week, a spokesperson for the state health department said the agency offered to provide the administrator at Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center with help in transferring residents if needed as well as assessing staffing levels, providing additional staffing resources and ensuring that the site has an appropriate supply of personal protective equipment. At the time, the spokesperson indicated that the nursing home’s administrator declined the state’s help, suggesting management is continuing to respond to the spread of the virus on its own.

“The administrator assured the department he was able to adequately care for his residents and will immediately contact us if the situation changes,” the health department spokesperson said. 

Bargnesi characterized the suggestion that management at Newfane Rehab rejected assistance from the state agency as "false." She indicated that the facility has continued to work closely with the state health department and the Niagara County Department of Health as it continued to deal with an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents. 

"In fact, the New York State Department of Health offered staffing resources, including identification of staffing agencies and employment portals, and Newfane immediately contacted those sources to identify any individual caregivers who would be available to work if and when needed," she said. 

Bargnesi noted that the New York State Department of Health performed two "unannounced" on-site surveys on May 9 and on May 14 and "found no deficiencies."  In addition, she said the state health department retained outside infectious disease experts who visited the facility to review infection control practices and that those experts found the center is compliant with all infection control practices and found no areas of concern.

"In response to recent media reports relative to staffing, it is critical to know that the New York State Department of Health reviews the facility’s staffing numbers on a daily basis and examines the numbers of RNs, LPNs, and CNAs to ensure sufficient staffing," the statement indicated. 

Multiple county officials, including Legislature Chair Rebecca Wydysh, R-Lewiston, and Town of Newfane Supervisor Tim Horanburg, expressed concern about conditions inside the long-term care facility, which reported a growing number of deaths and infections related to COVID-19 in recent weeks. Additional testing showed several workers were also confirmed positive at the site, which has contributed to Newfane consistently ranking as the community with the second highest number of positive cases in Niagara County, lagging behind only the City of Niagara Falls. 

Per New York State requirements, Newfane has started on-site COVID-19 testing for all of its employees twice per week. Any individual who tests positive cannot return to work for 14 days and must first test negative for the virus. 

Bargnesi said the nursing home has "all necessary personal protective equipment, including surplus PPE, maintained "in storage" if needed better protect residents and employees. The statement also indicated that the center, in appreciation of the efforts of its "front-line caregivers," has provided both hourly pay increases and shift bonuses to staff members. 

"The owners of Newfane are committed to the residents of Niagara County also owning Lockport Rehab and Health Care Center," the statement from Bargnesi reads. "The owners purchased Newfane on Dec. 30, 2015 and at the time of the purchase the facility was 1 star Medicare rated. Since the date of purchase, the owners invested millions of dollars to improve the infrastructure of the building and have successfully elevated Newfane’s Medicare rating relative to the quality of care provided." 

"We believe that Newfane and its employees have continued to provide quality care to our friends and neighbors," the statement continued. "We look forward to the continued support of the community and the recognition of the diligent efforts of our dedicated employees."

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