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Plattsburgh nursing home families continue push for visitation rights

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 8:21 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2020 at 8:45 AM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Many New York long-term care facilities can’t meet the state’s requirements to allow in-person visitation. Those include being completely COVID-free for 28 consecutive days, having plenty of PPE on hand, and not facing any staff shortages. But some North Country families eager to see their loved ones are speaking out.

Pamela Wade and her sister Debbie Provost get emotional when they talk about the last five months of not being able to see their mother. "It's just not right, something needs to be done soon," Wade said.

"She thinks we left her," added Provost.

They say pre-pandemic, they would visit her at Meadowbrook Healthcare daily. She has been a full-time resident at the Plattsburgh nursing home the last 14 months to care for her dementia. Wade says not seeing family is making her condition worse. ”If I could have just a crumb of hope from somebody, but I can’t. It’s just not there,” she said.

The story is all to familiar to many New York families with a loved one at a long-term care facility. Sixty people gathered outside Meadowbrook to call for action on Tuesday. Many say they are frustrated that prison inmates can have visitors but not family members at nursing homes.

"If New York State and DOH feel that they can do this safely in correctional facilities, why not allow us to do it here," said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh.

Meadowbrook Healthcare got in trouble last month after proposing to violate state guidelines by offering in-person visits. State leaders sent a cease and desist order and said the action was a blatant disregard for public health.

Since March there have been over 32,000 COVID deaths in New York state. As of Monday, 3,700 hundred of those deaths were confirmed COVID cases at nursing homes or adult care facilities. Another 2,800 deaths are presumed to be from COVID.

Tuesday, the region saw its first COVID-related death at a long-term care facility -- the Essex Center in Elizabethtown.

"It goes the whole gamut, almost like the stages of grief," said Haila Conant, who hasn't seen her mother, Donna, at Meadowbrook in five-months. She says her mom has severe dementia and taking her out of the facility is not what's best for her health. She questions how other states policies operate and blames the governor.

“I think Governor Cuomo is being political,” Conant said. “He’s afraid to have any problems so he’s made the rules so strict. In my opinion, that’s why we can’t get in.”

Nursing home staff say the rules are too strict and unfair and have kept seniors from seeing their families for too long. They say residents are depressed. The nursing home is now pushing a petition advocating for visitation.

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