Hebrew Home at Riverdale raises COVID death tally after Post report
Staffers at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale have been crying foul because according to state records even as of Sunday, the facility has only supposedly had 20 confirmed or presumed contagion deaths.
But the workers told The Post as far back as May 9 that 119 residents — many with suspected COVID-19 symptoms — had died at the facility in the past two months.
The Post’s expose on the claims prompted the state Department of Health to open a probe into the nursing home, make sure residents were tested for the virus — and review the records of every patient who had died there since the pandemic began.
Hebrew Home CEO Daniel Reingold sent a letter to staffers and other facilities run by the site’s parent company RiverSpring Health Community on Monday addressing the issue — and significantly raising the center’s tragic coronavirus death toll.
He said there have been 63 COVID-related deaths — 35 confirmed and 28 reclassified as presumed positive — at Hebrew Home between March 1 and May 8.
No explanation was given as to why the state still only has 20 COVID-linked fatalities reported at the facility.
Hebrew Home spokeswoman Wendy Steinberg later told The Post, “We cannot speak to the discrepancy specifically since you are referring to a New York State Web site. The Hebrew Home at Riverdale has repeatedly reported that its number of [confirmed] COVID positive deaths between March 1 and May 8 is 35.”
Reingold added in his letter that testing performed last week showed 109 residents and 64 staffers were positive for COVID-19 at the 751-bed facility. Most of them hadn’t been showing symptoms.
Meanwhile, he defended the earlier, lower COVID death count.
“As more information has been gleaned about symptoms, [state] DOH and CDC guidelines have evolved. In view of this, we worked closely with the Department of Health to go through records from each resident who died within that time period to make sure we are reporting the most accurate figures possible,’’ Reingold said in the letter.
“Accordingly, we are reclassifying 28 of these resident deaths as `possibly caused by COVID-19.’ ”
Insiders had accused the nursing home of engaging in a cover-up of its COVID-related deaths.
But Reingold insisted in the letter that Hebrew Home “has been and continues to be fully transparent in reporting,” adding, “We have, at a minimum, complied with all Federal and State regulations, directives and guidelines.”
He added that Hebrew Home had secured adequate personal protective equipment “since the early days of the pandemic,” closed the complex to all visitors and developed three dedicated COVID Recovery floors to isolate infected patients and contain the killer virus.
He also said the nursing home takes staff and residents’ temperatures daily while executives and clinical managers have been on site for every shift.
“We do this because we are dedicated to our mission of providing the highest quality care to residents, especially amidst this unprecedented pandemic,” the CEO said. “We are grateful that the New York State Department of Health arrived last week as part of a state-wide COVID Infection Control survey of nursing homes.
“The survey was a collaborative effort to rigorously review our processes and refine our best practices to manage the virus. It was very positive and constructive. Like us, the Department of Health is doing its best in these uncharted waters.”
Critics, including some nursing-home operators, claimed Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Health Department contributed to the COVID outbreak in nursing homes by imposing a controversial March 25 directive that required nursing homes to admit and readmit recovering COVID patients from hospitals.
Facing a firestorm of criticism and calls for an independent probe, the governor partially rescinded that policy last week, barring hospitals from sending patients back to nursing homes unless they test negative for COVID.
Cuomo also is now requiring nursing-home operators to test staffers twice weekly for the coronavirus.
The deaths of more than 5,300 nursing-home residents have been tied to COVID.