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North Country Nursing Home And Assembly Representative Call For Easing Visitation Rules

A nursing home and rehabilitation center in Plattsburgh is calling on the state to ease nursing home visitation policies it says are too stringent and unfair to residents and their families.
Meadowbrook Healthcare is a 287-bed nursing home and rehabilitation center in Plattsburgh. On March 11th it closed its doors to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Its 350 employees are tested weekly for COVID-19. Overall five staff and no patients have tested positive.

Meadowbrook CEO Paul Richards acknowledged that the elderly have been impacted the most by the pandemic globally.  But he says residents need to interact with their families and the state’s nursing home visitation policies are too stringent.  “Our patients are suffering. They’re suffering from loneliness and their rights are being abused by the people who refuse to revise the policy. This is an involuntary confinement and it’s wrong. Our mission is to provide patient centered care not prison centered care.”  

Democratic state Assemblyman D. Billy Jones of the 115th district says residents of the facility have been locked away for 5 months because the New York State Department of Health refuses to make reasonable changes to the regulations.  “You’re not going to put your loved ones’ lives in jeopardy. It means that we’ll take extra precautions. If New York state and DOH (Department of Health) feel that they can do this safely in correctional facilities why not allow us to do it here? You’ve felt the pain of this for the past five months. It’s too damn long. It’s too damn long.”

The Department of Health responded to a request for comment in writing, saying: “As we said from the beginning, science and safety would guide our decision to resume visitations to nursing homes, and it has.  The number of facilities that are eligible to reopen to visitors, and the number that have taken the next step, shows they are appropriately adhering to CMS guidelines with smart and cautious plans for visitation.  Given the increase in cases nationally, we commend them for all they – and all New Yorkers – have done to flatten the curve and to stay safe.”    

About 75 people gathered in the parking lot in front of the facility to advocate for easing visitation regulations.  Among them was Americo Pivetta, whose wife is being treated at Meadowbrook for dementia.  “I try to come here every day. I use binoculars to see her on the third floor every day and it’s rough. Very rough. You get depressed. You get lonesome. My wife was never sick. If they can open bowling alleys and restaurants and things of that nature I think we should be able to touch our loved ones. I mean once every couple weeks we get the bottom floor but there’s a window between us. I mean, hold hands through the window?”

The New York Assembly and Senate Health committees held hearings this month on COVID-19’s impact on nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state.