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Uniondale nursing home has 21 COVID-19 cases as facilities across LI brace for more cases

Residents of Amber Court of Westbury have been

Residents of Amber Court of Westbury have been getting cards from local children and families have been sending individually wrapped breakfasts for employees, according to the assisted living facility. Credit: Amber Court of Westbury

A cluster of COVID-19 cases at the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale has grown from 18 to 21 as nursing homes across Long Island brace for an increase in coronavirus cases and work to equip their facilities with ventilators, officials said Friday.

Nassau Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, whose district includes Uniondale, said all patients at A. Holly Patterson, a publicly run 589-bed facility, are getting tested for COVID-19. Those who test negative for the virus are being isolated in a separate wing away from those who tested positive, he said. One resident of the facility has died from the virus, county officials said.

"They aren't just going to wait to see if someone in the healthy section shows symptoms," said Abrahams, adding that the facility currently has enough ventilators to support the COVID-19 cases. "So those people are going to be tested because they have no idea how well they have contained this."

The Uniondale facility is one of nine nursing homes on Long Island designated as ventilator rehab facilities.

While the Nassau County Health Department said state testing data attributed 21 coronavirus positive cases from A. Holly Patterson, Dr. Anthony Boutin at Nassau University Medical Center, which operates the facility, said there are 18 positive residents and they are doing well. He said the site is following CDC protocols.

There have been 590 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 86 deaths, combined at 95 of the state's 613 nursing homes, said state Health Department spokeswoman Jill Montag.

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“Protecting New York’s most vulnerable nursing home population is a priority in addressing the current COVID-19 outbreak and containing the virus,” Montag said.

Nursing homes must accept new and recently discharged patients who tested positive for COVID-19, according to a new state directive.

Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a 460-bed facility in Commack, had one patient test positive for the virus last week after  the patient was sent to a hospital, said chief medical officer David Siskind. The facility, which has about 20 to 25 empty beds, is now bracing for a wave of new hospital patients to comply with the state guidelines. 

"We are trying to free up as many beds for the increase we expect from the hospitals," said Stuart Almer, the facility's chief executive. "So we are trying to safely see if we can discharge any resident who is here for short-term rehabilitation."

Gurwin has 16 ventilators in use by non-COVID-19 patients, 15 in-house that are in not in use and five more that were recently ordered, Almer said.

Uniondale-based Philosophy Care Centers operates five nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities in Woodbury, Uniondale, Massapequa, Long Beach and Southampton.

The health care group had one patient test positive for COVID-19, who was hospitalized and returned home after treatment, said executive vice president Daniel Schaffer. 

Townhouse Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Uniondale and Cold Spring Hills Center in Woodbury are equipped with a combined 79 ventilators while Philosophy Care has ordered 20 more devices.

“Eventually we will take COVID-19 patients and want to make sure all the needs are met to treat these patients,” Schaffer said.

Affinity Skilled Living and Rehabilitation Center, a 260-bed residential facility in Oakdale, has not seen any COVID-19 cases but is stocking up in case that changes, said Stephanie Malone, the site's administrator.

All but one of the facility's 20 ventilator bed units are being occupied by non-COVID-19 cases, which could make Affinity vulnerable in case of an outbreak, she said.

"We are speaking with ownership about expanding our capacity to 20 [more ventilator] beds," Malone said. 

To prevent the spread of the virus, Affinity — much like all nursing homes contacted by Newsday — has increased its infection control practices, ending all but brief end-of-life visitation while staff have their temperatures taken before entering the building.

Felicia Pasculli, an elder care attorney from Bay Shore, said the pandemic is straining already thin staffing at nursing homes across the state. She worries that as COVID-19 cases begin to grow, patients who may test negative for the virus but who still require round-the-clock care could fall through the cracks.

"They are already short-staffed," Pasculli said. "I don't know of a single facility that has adequate staffing."

Patrick O'Shaughnessy, executive vice president at Catholic Health Services, said their nursing facilities in West Islip, Smithtown and Sayville purchased UV light mask sterilizers to disinfect N-95 masks, allowing them to be reused.

The facilities, which do not have ventilator beds, also repurposed disposable operating room jacket covers to address isolation gown shortages.

"Our supply chain leadership is constantly thinking outside the box,” O'Shaughnessy said.

Allison Miller, executive director of Amber Court, a 275-person assisted living facility in Westbury, attributed the lack of any positive COVID-19 tests among its patients to a series of new protective guidelines, from social distancing among patients to heightened sanitation standards.

“Knock on wood we’re symptom-free,” Miller said Thursday, noting that residents are taking meals in their rooms and have been unable to interact in group settings or with relatives.

With John Valenti

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