The saga continues. My uncle, a resident at the Westhampton Care Center, was diagnosed three weeks ago with COVID-19. Luckily, he is asymptomatic.
It’s a roller-coaster. First, there were no beds available, then there were plenty, and now there are none. I can only surmise why. When someone dies at the center, they ring a bell — and the bell has rung often these last few weeks.
We have an obligation to help staff dealing with the virus. They are exhausted, physically and mentally. They are also getting sick themselves. Some are simply quitting, deciding it is not worth the risk to themselves and their families for the tiny salary they receive.
Employees should be compensated according to risk. I was told that staff who get sick with the virus are required to stay home for two weeks and then get re-tested. Their pay? During their quarantine, they receive one day’s pay per week — and that is for those who have worked 40-plus hours a week in the COVID-19 ward.
How are they expected to survive on that sort of pay? What sort of gratitude is that? No wonder some folks on the front line choose to stop working and file for unemployment … it pays better.
The new state directive says that nursing home employees must be tested twice per week. Good. The costs are enormous, but so are the consequences.
What about testing residents twice a week? What if my uncle is no longer positive but is now quarantined in a room with someone who has just contracted the virus? Can someone assure me that he is safe? No one knows for sure if you can be re-infected.
The current practice at the Westhampton Care Center is to re-test COVID-19 positive patients every five weeks. Why such a huge differential between staff and patients?
I did a window visit with my uncle this weekend. There was one nurse and two aides covering the entire COVID-19 unit — 33 patients. How can they possibly cope?
And let’s address personal protective equipment. I just got an email from U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin crowing that he’d obtained PPE for several nursing homes in Suffolk County. I guess he picked and chose which ones would be the lucky winners — perhaps in the correct voting districts.
Westhampton Care Center was not one of them. The staff I saw today were wearing regular surgical masks and no face shields — despite assurances on Friday from administrative personnel that everyone on the COVID-19 unit was totally equipped.
Of course they are going to get sick. How could they not?
Anna Klebnikov Brinsmade
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One fine body…