State health reps visit Newfane nursing home amid rash of virus deaths

James Neiss/staff photographerA spokesperson for the the New York State Health Department confirmed that representatives from the department visited Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center on Friday. The move follows an uptick in COVID-19-related deaths among residents at the facility in recent weeks.  

The New York State Department of Health says a nursing home in Newfane that has become a source of concern for COVID-19 deaths and infections declined an offer for assistance from the state following an unannounced inspection of the site on Wednesday. 

In a statement released by a spokesperson, the state health department said it offered to provide the administrator at Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center with help in transferring residents if needed, assessing staffing levels, providing additional staffing resources and ensuring that the site has an appropriate supply of personal protective equipment.

The state health department 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 state health department indicated in a statement issued in response to questions on Friday.

Representatives from Newfane Rehab have not responded to multiple requests for comment from the newspaper. 

As of Thursday, the state reported 16 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths at the facility, with another seven deaths identified as "presumed" to be related to the virus. Several workers have tested positive for the virus as well. 

As of the last inspection on May 8, the state health department found Newfane Rehab to be in compliance with infection control practices and CDC supported guidelines issued by the state.

The health department reported, as part of the nursing home's infection protocol, new admissions, as well as readmissions, are now being placed in quarantine for 14 days. In addition, the department said it is providing the nursing home with pulse oximetry units, a standard monitoring device for intensive care units.

Members of the Niagara County Legislature sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday, asking his office to send in the National Guard to transform the former Newfane hospital site into a facility for elderly COVID-19 patients.

The letter, which was signed by all 15 county lawmakers, asked the governor’s office to provide additional resources in an effort to get the COVID-19 situation “under manageable control” in the Town of Newfane, which has seen an uptick in positive cases and deaths in recent weeks.

Earlier this year, Niagara County reached an agreement with Eastern Niagara Hospital to use the former Newfane hospital as a quarantine site. To date, the location has not been used for that purpose. Lawmakers believe it would be useful in treating COVID-19 patients in the Newfane area, and possibly other parts of the county.

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