Saturday, April 25, 2020

Maryland won’t detail nursing home coronavirus outbreaks, saying ‘disclosure serves no public health purpose’

By Scott Dance

Maryland health officials have denied a request from The Baltimore Sun for a list of nursing homes across the state with confirmed coronavirus outbreaks, saying “the disclosure serves no public health purpose."

Though states including California, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey recently began sharing such information, Maryland will not follow suit out of concern for patient privacy, wrote Heather Shek, assistant director of the state health department’s office of governmental affairs, in a letter to The Sun.

She said providing the list “could lead to the identification of specific persons who have tested positive.”

State health officials also say disclosure “would not contribute to preventing the further spread of the disease,” Shek wrote, because nursing homes are restricting visitor access under an executive order by Gov. Larry Hogan.

“Public disclosure of the information about positive test results at nursing homes does not help to protect the public since visitors have not been permitted at these facilities for several weeks,” Shek wrote. “Only staff and residents are affected by the presence of persons with positive tests in the nursing home.”

There are now confirmed COVID-19 cases in 169 of Maryland’s 226 nursing homes, state officials said Thursday. About three-fourths of the at least 680 people the virus has killed in the state are age 60 or older.

Nursing home leaders say they requested a list of those facilities from the state earlier this month and also were denied. They say it is necessary to help them identify staff who work in multiple nursing home facilities, and could be exposed to the virus in one and spread it to another.

Kevin Heffner, president of LifeSpan Network, a nursing home industry group, said transparency is key to protecting the many contractors who are still coming in and out of nursing homes, including pharmacy, dining services and medical equipment staff.

“If the positive test information were more readily available, those contractors could take steps to limit the employees and drivers who are potentially exposed to the virus,” he said.

LifeSpan and other nursing home groups also are pressing the state to conduct universal coronavirus testing of all nursing home residents and staff, citing the 500,000 new tests the state acquired from South Korea.

Family members of nursing home residents also have called for more information about outbreaks as they try to monitor their loved ones’ well-being from afar.

“As each day of the pandemic passes, family members, staff and communities are becoming increasingly worried about the health and safety of those inside long-term care facilities,” wrote Hank Greenberg, director of AARP Maryland, in letter to the editor of The Sun. “The lack of transparency from state health officials and facilities only adds anxiety.”

Anna Palmisano, co-founder of Marylanders for Patient Rights, called it “outrageous” for the state to suggest the information would not serve public health. Families need it to make decisions on how to keep their relatives safe, including potentially bringing them home, she said, adding that not all nursing homes have been transparent about outbreaks in their facilities.

“You don’t know how at risk your beloved family member is,” Palmisano said. “You don’t have the opportunity to act in a responsible manner for someone you love.”

The Sun requested the information under the Maryland Public Information Act. In the state’s response, Shek cited a state health law that says reports on infectious disease at hospitals and other health facilities are not subject to public inspection.

The federal government is seeking to make the information more public, however. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this week proposed requiring all nursing homes report COVID-19 outbreaks to residents, residents’ families and staff within 12 hours of confirming cases, and to report them directly to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But federal regulations imposing that requirement are not yet in place.

Shek said the state “expects full compliance by all nursing home operators” in providing that information.

Shek added that state and local health departments “are closely monitoring outbreaks at nursing homes and other congregate living facilities, assessing facility practices and resources, and engaging on-site ‘go teams’ to provide additional support when indicated.”

As the nursing homes continue to try to contain or prevent outbreaks, they are asking for more state help testing residents and staff for the virus.

Heffner, of the LifeSpan Network, and the leaders of LifeSpan and two other nursing home industry groups, the Health Facilities Association of Maryland and Leading Age Maryland, are urging Hogan to use some of the 500,000 coronavirus tests the state recently obtained from South Korea to conduct universal testing on all of their residents and staff.

In a letter to the governor, they said the lack of coronavirus testing has made it difficult for nursing home administrators to “proactively manage their communities.” Testing availability has remained limited for those not showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection but believed to have introduced the virus to vulnerable elderly populations.

“While we understand the challenges associated with testing asymptomatic individuals, waiting for both employees and residents to develop symptoms almost guarantees additional infections,” they wrote in a letter to Hogan.

Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said “all options are under consideration” as the state moves to roll out increased testing, noting that the governor said Monday that the surge of new tests would go to “high-priority areas, such as nursing and group homes.”

The nursing home officials say increased testing could help prevent more outbreaks like some of the worst known to hit the state.

Health officials have said it was an asymptomatic staff member who sparked the outbreak at Pleasant View nursing home in Mount Airy, where at least 26 of the 98 residents have died from COVID-19.

And it was universal testing of residents and staff, sought out by nursing home operator FutureCare over concern about possible asymptomatic spread of the virus, that revealed an outbreak infecting at least 129 residents and 41 staff members at FutureCare Lochearn. At least two residents there have died, according to family members.

Baltimore Sun reporter Phil Davis contributed to this article.

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Maryland won’t detail nursing home coronavirus outbreaks, saying ‘disclosure serves no public health purpose’

New York Lawyer Disbarred For $10K Grand Theft in Florida

A New York lawyer who pleaded guilty to grand theft after stealing from his employer in Florida was disbarred by a New York appeals court.

Hilton M. Wiener’s guilty plea qualifies as a “conviction” sufficient to trigger automatic disbarment under New York law, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department, said April. 23.

The Manhattan lawyer, who isn’t barred in Florida, was working as a paralegal at a law firm in 2010 through 2011 when he misappropriated the funds, the appeals court said.

He pleaded guilty in 2018 and agreed to pay $20,000 in restitution and take part in a pretrial intervention program in order to defer prosecution, it said. If he successfully completed the program, his plea would be vacated and the case dismissed.

But he was kicked out of the program about two months later after being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, the court added.

The New York grievance committee argued that his guilty plea for the theft triggered automatic disbarment in New York. Wiener argued that there was no actual conviction so he can’t be automatically disbarred, according to the appellate panel’s ruling..

The court admitted this was a “unique scenario” because the Florida court didn’t issue a final judgment of conviction due to the deferred prosecution deal.

But his guilty plea nevertheless qualifies as a conviction, it said. New York law “clearly defines a conviction as occurring at the time a guilty plea is entered,” it said. And state law provides for automatic disbarment of an attorney convicted of a felony.

Wiener’s Florida felony conviction for grand theft in the third degree is “essentially similar” to the New York felony of grand larceny in the third degree because “the plain meaning of both statutes criminalize the knowing, wrongful taking or obtaining of property of another with intent to deprive,” the court said.

It ordered Wiener’s disbarment effective retroactively to the date of his 2018 guilty plea.

The case is Matter of Wiener, 2020 BL 151083, N.Y. App. Div., No. M-7534, 4/23/20.

Full Article & Source:
New York Lawyer Disbarred For $10K Grand Theft in Florida

Seniors with Covid-19 show unusual symptoms, doctors say

(Kaiser Health News)Older adults with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, have several "atypical" symptoms, complicating efforts to ensure they get timely and appropriate treatment, according to physicians.

Covid-19 is typically signaled by three symptoms: a fever, an insistent cough and shortness of breath. But older adults — the age group most at risk of severe complications or death from this condition ― may have none of these characteristics.
Instead, seniors may seem "off" — not acting like themselves ― early on after being infected by the coronavirus. They may sleep more than usual or stop eating. They may seem unusually apathetic or confused, losing orientation to their surroundings. They may become dizzy and fall. Sometimes, seniors stop speaking or simply collapse.
"With a lot of conditions, older adults don't present in a typical way, and we're seeing that with Covid-19 as well," said Dr. Camille Vaughan, section chief of geriatrics and gerontology at Emory University.

Altered immune response

The reason has to do with how older bodies respond to illness and infection.
At advanced ages, "someone's immune response may be blunted and their ability to regulate temperature may be altered," said Dr. Joseph Ouslander, a professor of geriatric medicine at Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine.
"Underlying chronic illnesses can mask or interfere with signs of infection," he said. "Some older people, whether from age-related changes or previous neurologic issues such as a stroke, may have altered cough reflexes. Others with cognitive impairment may not be able to communicate their symptoms."

Read early signals

Recognizing danger signs is important: If early symptoms of Covid-19 are missed, seniors may deteriorate before getting needed care. And people may go in and out of their homes without adequate protective measures, risking the spread of infection.
Dr. Quratulain Syed, an Atlanta geriatrician, describes a man in his 80s who she treated in mid-March. Over a period of days, this patient, who had heart disease, diabetes and moderate cognitive impairment, stopped walking and became incontinent and profoundly lethargic. But he didn't have a fever or a cough. His only respiratory symptom: sneezing off and on.
The man's elderly spouse called 911 twice. Both times, paramedics checked his vital signs and declared he was OK. After another worried call from the overwhelmed spouse, Syed insisted the patient be taken to the hospital, where he tested positive for Covid-19.
"I was quite concerned about the paramedics and health aides who'd been in the house and who hadn't used PPE [personal protective equipment]," Syed said.

Anecdotal case reporting

Dr. Sam Torbati, medical director of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, describes treating seniors who initially appear to be trauma patients but are found to have Covid-19.
"They get weak and dehydrated," he said, "and when they stand to walk, they collapse and injure themselves badly."
Torbati has seen older adults who are profoundly disoriented and unable to speak and who appear at first to have suffered strokes.
"When we test them, we discover that what's producing these changes is a central nervous system effect of coronavirus," he said.
Dr. Laura Perry, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, saw a patient like this several weeks ago. The woman, in her 80s, had what seemed to be a cold before becoming very confused. In the hospital, she couldn't identify where she was or stay awake during an examination. Perry diagnosed hypoactive delirium, an altered mental state in which people become inactive and drowsy. The patient tested positive for coronavirus and is still in the ICU.
Dr. Anthony Perry, an associate professor of geriatric medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, tells of an 81-year-old woman with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea who tested positive for Covid-19 in the emergency room. After receiving IV fluids, oxygen and medication for her intestinal upset, she returned home after two days and is doing well.
Another 80-year-old Rush patient with similar symptoms — nausea and vomiting, but no cough, fever or shortness of breath ― is in intensive care after getting a positive Covid-19 test and due to be put on a ventilator. The difference? This patient is frail with "a lot of cardiovascular disease," Perry said. Other than that, it's not yet clear why some older patients do well while others do not.

Data collection of atypical symptoms

So far, reports of cases like these have been anecdotal. But a few physicians are trying to gather more systematic information.
In Switzerland, Dr. Sylvain Nguyen, a geriatrician at the University of Lausanne Hospital Center, has put together a list of typical and atypical symptoms in older Covid-19 patients in a forthcoming paper in the Revue M├ędicale Suisse. Included on the atypical list are changes in a patient's usual status, delirium, falls, fatigue, lethargy, low blood pressure, painful swallowing, fainting, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and the loss of smell and taste.
Data comes from hospitals and nursing homes in Switzerland, Italy and France, Nguyen said in an email.
On the front lines, physicians need to make sure they carefully assess an older patient's symptoms.

Other complicating factors

"While we have to have a high suspicion of Covid-19 because it's so dangerous in the older population, there are many other things to consider," said Dr. Kathleen Unroe, a geriatrician at Indiana University's School of Medicine.
Seniors may also do poorly because their routines have changed. In nursing homes and most assisted living centers, activities have stopped and "residents are going to get weaker and more deconditioned because they're not walking to and from the dining hall," she said.
At home, isolated seniors may not be getting as much help with medication management or other essential needs from family members who are keeping their distance, other experts suggested. Or they may have become apathetic or depressed.
"I'd want to know 'What's the potential this person has had an exposure [to the coronavirus], especially in the last two weeks?'" said Vaughan of Emory. "Do they have home health personnel coming in? Have they gotten together with other family members? Are chronic conditions being controlled? Is there another diagnosis that seems more likely?"
"Someone may be just having a bad day. But if they're not themselves for a couple of days, absolutely reach out to a primary care doctor or a local health system hotline to see if they meet the threshold for [coronavirus] testing," Vaughan advised. "Be persistent. If you get a 'no' the first time and things aren't improving, call back and ask again."
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Full Article & Source:
Seniors with Covid-19 show unusual symptoms, doctors say

Friday, April 24, 2020

Coronavirus patients admitted to Queens nursing home — with body bags

By Gabrielle Fonrouge, Bernadette Hogan and Bruce Golding

The first coronavirus patients admitted to a Queens nursing home under a controversial state mandate arrived along with some grim accessories — a supply of body bags, The Post has learned.

An executive at the facility — which was previously free of the deadly disease — said the bags were in the shipment of personal protective equipment received the same day the home was forced to begin treating two people discharged from hospitals with COVID-19.

“My colleague noticed that one of the boxes was extremely heavy. Curious as to what could possibly be making that particular box so much heavier than the rest, he opened it,” the exec told The Post Thursday.

“The first two coronavirus patients were accompanied by five body bags.”

Within days, three of the bags were filled with the first of 30 residents who would die there after Gov. Cuomo’s Health Department handed down its March 25 directive that bars nursing homes from refusing to admit “medically stable” coronavirus patients, the exec said.

Like clockwork, the nursing home has received five body bags a week — every week — from city officials.

“Cuomo has blood on his hands. He really does. There’s no way to sugarcoat this,” the health care executive added.

“Why in the world would you be sending coronavirus patients to a nursing home, where the most vulnerable population to this disease resides?”

Since March 25, the Queens nursing home has admitted 17 patients from hospitals who tested positive for coronavirus, but in a bitter irony most of them have fared well, the exec said. Those who have died passed away without a test or while awaiting the results from one.

“The rest of the people are dropping like flies — literally like flies — and most of them have been with us for years,” the exec added.

COVID-19 has killed at least 3,540 residents of New York’s nursing homes and adult care facilities as of Wednesday, according to the most recent state Health Department data.

The Queens story is painfully repeating at a Manhattan nursing home.

Administrators there told The Post they’ve also received body bags in weekly shipments of supplies, which City Hall confirmed the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was distributing to nursing homes.

One of the Manhattan administrators said the state’s admission mandate came with no warning or even time to prepare facilities for an influx of coronavirus patients, who the state says must be quarantined inside nursing homes and treated by separate staffers.

“By the time I even got to the work the next day, I had phone calls, emails from just about every hospital in the area,” the administrator said. Previously, the person added, the facility had required “two negative test results before we’d even consider taking someone into the building.”

Officials at both nursing homes declined to have their names published because they feared retribution from Cuomo, who regulates them. The Post reviewed emails, state regulatory orders, other public documents and spoke to five employees across the two facilities to confirm their stories.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi called the “blood on his hands” comment about the governor “disgusting” and accused nursing home operators of “trying to deflect from their failures.”

He vowed state officials were “going to get to the bottom” of the high death count in nursing homes, where Cuomo has said COVID-19 spreads “like fire through dry grass.”

Earlier, Cuomo said that if a nursing home can’t properly quarantine and treat the patients they were supposed to move them to other facilities or ask the Health Dept. to arrange a transfer.

But the March 25 mandate does not detail how and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said he was not aware that DOH had received any transfer requests.

“That is the rule and that is the regulation and they have to comply with that,” Cuomo said at the coronavirus briefing in Albany.

“And the regulation is common sense: if you can’t provide adequate care, you can’t have the patient in your facility and that’s your basic fiduciary obligation — I would say, ethical obligation — and it’s also your legal obligation.”

“Now, when a person gets transferred, they lose a patient, they lose that revenue, I understand, but the relationship is, the contract is, ‘You have this resident, you get paid, you must provide adequate care,’” he said.

Cuomo also doubled down on his remark a day earlier that “it’s not our job” to provide nursing homes with personal protective equipment, saying, “We have given them thousands and thousands of PPE.”

“It’s their primary responsibility like it’s a hospital’s primary responsibility. And hospitals ran into problems, nursing homes ran into problems.”

“This is a national story, right? Turn on the national news any given time, and you have people saying ‘We can’t get enough PPE,’ right?” he added.

A member of Cuomo’s Coronavirus Task Force — SUNY-Empire State College President Jim Malatras — said the state had distributed 417,000 surgical grade masks, 101,000 gowns, 85,000 face shields, 422,000 gloves and 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to nursing homes over the last two weeks.

Full Article & Source:
Coronavirus patients admitted to Queens nursing home — with body bags

Nebraska Lawyer Disbarred For Punching 83-Year-Old Father (1)

A Nebraska lawyer who pleaded no contest to a felony after punching his elderly father in the face several times 2018 has been disbarred by the state’s supreme court.

The Nebraska Supreme Court said on March 27 that while there’s no “bright line rule,” its cases “regarding the appropriate discipline for felony convictions have generally concluded that such convictions reflect adversely upon a lawyer’s fitness to practice law and that disbarment is the appropriate sanction.”

Omaha attorney Evangelos A. Argyrakis pleaded no contest in 2018 to a charge of “knowing and intentional abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult or senior adult, a Class IIIA felony” and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Argyrakis, at the time of the assault, was a Democratic Party candidate for Nebraska attorney general, according to local news reports.

At his disciplinary hearing, Argyrakis said that since 2010, he had seen five different doctors for mental health therapy and medication management and that during his childhood, his father physically and emotionally abused him and that he witnessed his father physically abusing his mother, the court said.

He called a mental health expert to testify that his depressive disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder contributed to the incident between him and his father, it said. But the hearing referee placed little weight on the testimony as a mitigating factor because “the opinions were formed solely on the basis of self-reporting by Argyrakis,” the court said.

The referee found that a mitigating factor was his lack of a prior disciplinary record in over 25 years of practice, it added. However, Argyrakis didn’t accept responsibility for his misconduct, the court said.

And the referee also concluded that Argyrakis had been convicted of a crime of violence, in violation of state professional conduct rule, it added. While the crime of abuse of a vulnerable adult may not always constitute a crime of violence, particularly when there’s an issue of neglect or exploitation, in this case the record from the criminal case showed showed otherwise, the referee found.

A conviction for a crime of violence “damages the reputation of the bar and threatens public confidence in the profession,” the court said. “For these reasons, we conclude, after considering the appropriate factors, that disbarment is the appropriate sanction in this case,” it said.

Argyrakis, in a statement emailed to Bloomberg Law, said he’d retired from the practice of law prior to his disbarment.

“I did not have any clients, nor did I have any client funds at the time of the incident and I was in no danger to anyone in the public in terms of providing any type of misinformed legal services or any kind legal negligence,” he said.

The case is State ex rel. Counsel for Discipline of the Neb. Supreme Court v. Argyrakis, 2020 BL 114456, Neb., No. S-19-059, 3/27/20.

Full Article & Source:
Nebraska Lawyer Disbarred For Punching 83-Year-Old Father (1)

Ted Deutch Wants More Protections for Seniors with Alzheimer’s, Dementia in Next Federal Stimulus

A member of the Florida delegation is pairing up with a Pennsylvania congressman to ask congressional leadership to add more fraud protections for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia in the next coronavirus stimulus package.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., in reaching out to congressional leadership on the matter.

“Scammers often target vulnerable seniors to intentionally confuse them into giving up sensitive information like bank accounts and social security numbers. However, seniors living with Alzheimer’s and dementia are at greater risk of falling prey to these cleverly disguised fraud schemes. Their condition also makes it more difficult for them to communicate the crimes to law enforcement or to seek life-saving assistance from first responders,” Deutch’s office noted.

Deutch and Reschenthaler are calling for “language to require the U.S. Department of Justice to develop best practices for assisting professionals – law enforcement, firefighters, emergency personnel, social workers, court officials, and medical professionals – who encounter and support people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia” and insisted “with an aging population and a virus that targets elderly people, having best practices will help first responders and other professionals effectively interact with people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia targeted by fraud and in need.” Reschenthaler is behind the “Elder Justice Improvement Act,” a bill enacting those ideas.

On Tuesday, the congressmen weighed in on why they though their efforts were needed.

“Scammers are taking advantage of fear and confusion during this public health crisis to trick people into giving up sensitive information. For the five million seniors living with Alzheimer’s and dementia who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, the risks are even greater,” said Deutch. “That’s why Congressman Reschenthaler and I are urging congressional leaders to include important fraud protections for our loved ones living with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the next stimulus plan.”

“I’m proud to introduce the Elder Justice Improvement Act so we can better protect our nation’s seniors with Alzheimer’s from predatory scams and elder abuse,” said Reschenthaler. “The growing number of seniors suffering from dementia in our country are more vulnerable to elder abuse, including financial exploitation. This legislation will create and update tools for caregivers and law enforcement personnel to better combat elder abuse. I hope my colleagues will join me in better protecting our seniors.”

The congressman’s efforts have the support of the Alzheimer’s Association and the Elder Justice Coalition.

Full Article & Source:
Ted Deutch Wants More Protections for Seniors with Alzheimer’s, Dementia in Next Federal Stimulus

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus nursing home policy proves tragic: Goodwin

By Michael Goodwin

The letter was heartbreaking as it recounted the death of an 88-year-old woman in a New York nursing home. But it was also angry and accurate about a strange New York policy that is ­fatally wrongheaded.

“I am wondering who will hold Gov. Cuomo accountable for the deaths of so many older people due to his reckless decision to place covid19 patients in nursing and rehabilitation homes,” the letter began. “I am writing as a daughter who lost her beautiful 88 year old mother who was receiving physical therapy at one such facility.”

The writer, Arlene Mullin, went on to recount examples of the governor promising to protect the elderly because of their known vulnerability. She noted that he named his stay-at-home order after his own mother, Matilda ­Cuomo, and talked several times about protecting her.

“My mother is not expendable and your mother is not expendable and our brothers and sisters are not expendable,” Cuomo said a month ago.

Mullin had another complaint, too — that the media never asked the governor about an order mandating that nursing homes admit and readmit patients who tested positive for the coronavirus, despite the extraordinary number of deaths among the elderly.

That drought ended Monday when The Post’s Bernadette Hogan asked about the policy at ­Cuomo’s daily briefing. His ­answer was stunning.

“That’s a good question. I don’t know,” the governor said.

He turned to Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, who confirmed the policy, saying “if you are positive, you should be admitted back to a nursing home. The necessary precautions will be taken to protect the other residents there.”

The second part of Zucker’s answer is debatable, the first part is not. The disastrous results speak for themselves.

Diana Mongiello (center) with daughter Arlene Mullin (right) and granddaughter Laura Brereton.
The state concedes that 3,448 residents of nursing homes or adult-care facilities are known to have died from the coronavirus, or nearly 25 percent of all deaths in New York. More than 2,000 of the total are in the five boroughs, and officials acknowledge that the real numbers are almost certainly higher.

The New York policy is especially odd given that the first large outbreak of the virus in the United States took place in a nursing home. The Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., attributed 13 deaths to the virus before March 11, and at the time, the number represented 60 percent of all the fatalities in the nation. Since then, at least 24 others have died there.

That same week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged that special attention be given to seniors. “It’s so clear that the overwhelming weight of serious disease and mortality is on those who are elderly and those with a serious comorbidity: heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, respiratory difficulties,” Fauci told the American Medical Association. He said there would always be exceptions but that “if you look at the weight of the data, the risk group is very, very clear.”

Indeed, early reports from around the world showed that death rates from the virus soared with age. Among those who also had other major health issues, the rates were off the charts.

For example, a study released in Italy on March 17 found that more than 99 percent of 355 coronavirus fatalities there suffered from other health issues. The average age of those who died was 79.5 years.

Thus, it was well known that the elderly were easy targets for the coronavirus before New York adopted its Health Department directive on March 25 requiring nursing homes to accept those with the disease.

Zucker’s Monday defense included his claim that the state is working with such facilities to protect other residents and health care workers by providing equipment and monitoring.

Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, harshly dismissed the claim as false.

“It’s either he’s lying or they have absolutely no idea what’s ­going on on the ground,” Kim told The Post.

For her part, Arlene Mullin is not satisfied. In an interview Tuesday, the Long Island educator said she has sent four emails to Cuomo’s office on the issue but has never received a response.

“I get it, it’s a crisis,” she said of the pandemic. “But I really want to know why the governor would put that population at such risk.”

Her mom, Diana Mongiello, a great-grandmother, was in a rehab center that had accepted coronavirus patients when she developed a fever on April 5. At 8 a.m. the next day, a nursed called to say Mongiello tested positive. Five hours later, she was pronounced dead.

When I told Mullin of Cuomo’s answer — that he didn’t know about the policy — she was silent, then wondered:

“What the heck were they ­thinking?”

She still deserves an answer.

Full Article & Source:
Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus nursing home policy proves tragic: Goodwin

DESTINATION.2.JUSTICE: How and Why It Should Be Important To You

Judicial lawlessness is a nationwide crisis that affects every citizen—no matter: rich, poor, young, old, nationality, political affiliation. Due to the prevalent lack of accountability for abuse of power and influence by attorneys and judges throughout U.S. courts, Americans’ guaranteed inalienable and individual rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness under the U.S. Constitution are routinely trampled on day-in and day-out inside the courtroom.
Lisa Siegel Belanger, J.D. created Destination.2.Justice with the objective to facilitate Education & Exposure of the systemically rigged courts throughout the United States.
Throughout Lisa’s career, her passion has always been about trying to right the wrong for “the little guy”. Prior to 2011, her area of practice did not include the Probate & Family Court arena, and therefore, she had no clue as to the rampant judicial lawlessness that went on in the Probate & Family Court forum. That all changed in 2011 as a result of predatory fraud committed by the financial institution BNY Mellon and their crony attorney/judge buddies that irreparably altered her family’s life forever.

In 2011, Lisa’s own elderly father—a man who was a prominent Boston attorney, had a multi-millionaire estate, two loving daughters, and long-time valid executed Durable Power of Attorney and other related advanced planning instruments—was involuntarily thrust into the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court system and “judicially” deemed a “Ward of the State."

Over a decade-long personal battle and extensive research of other like cases in the court swamp of court-appointed guardianship, Lisa’s discovery: her travesty is not an isolated incident but rather she is a posterchild for what is, in no uncertain terms, a business as usual enterprise that exists nationwide in the Probate & Family Court system.

And so, Lisa has been impassioned to help the general public become aware of this nationwide crisis of judicial lawlessness hoping to save other people from having to suffer dismemberment of their family unit by the Probate & Family Court system.
Read the DESTINATION.2.JUSTICE website

Read Lisa's Father's Profile on NASGA's Victims page

Foley teen caregiver arrested for financial exploitation of the elderly

(FPD) Foley teen caregiver arrested for financial exploitation of the elderly

According to Foley Police, on April 20th, 2020, 18-year-old Foley resident Trinity Faith McAdams was arrested on one count of Financial Exploitation of the Elderly in the 1st Degree (a felony) and five counts of Obtaining Signature by Deception (a misdemeanor).

Earlier this month, the department was alerted to suspicious financial transactions made by McAdams who was a home caregiver for an 81-year-old Foley resident who is mostly blind and on hospice.

Investigation revealed that McAdams exploited her client's age and medical limitations by having the client sign incomplete checks as payment for daily work.

McAdams would then inflate the amounts on the checks prior to depositing them.

Over the course of nine weeks, McAdams wrote herself checks for varying amounts totaling more than $4,000.00 in excess of her pre-determined salary.

This case was investigated in coordination with the Baldwin County District Attorney's Office Elderly Exploitation Team, which focuses on financial crimes against our elderly citizens.

Full Article & Source:
Foley teen caregiver arrested for financial exploitation of the elderly

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

NY Immunity Law Shields Nursing Homes As Virus Toll Soars

By Frank G. Runyeon
Law360, New York (April 17, 2020, 8:39 PM EDT) -- As thousands of elderly New Yorkers die of COVID-19, a recently passed immunity measure shields poorly staffed and undersupplied nursing homes from liability in most cases, relieving administrators but alarming advocates who fear the state law will hide deadly neglect.

In a March executive order and April budget bill, New York state granted a robust shield to nursing homes and their staff as the facilities desperately seek personnel, equipment and testing to cope with a pandemic that has now killed 2,690 of their residents across the state as of Wednesday, according to statistics released Friday. The law loosens record-keeping requirements and immunizes health care providers from liability as long as they are responding to the COVID-19 emergency in good faith.

“It’s very protective,” said Fran Ciardullo of Barclay Damon LLP, who represents New York nursing homes.

The New York law, Emergency Or Disaster Treatment Protection Act, declares that “any health care facility or health care professional shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged,” as long as the care is provided in accordance with state rules and affected by “decisions or activities in response to or as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.” Other states have made similar moves to shield health care workers.

While an understaffed nursing home in New York without enough personal protective equipment, or PPE, could still be held liable if it committed intentional harm, gross negligence or reckless misconduct — such as never trying to get added supplies during the pandemic — it would be immunized as long as it is making a good faith effort to care for residents, Ciardullo said.

“It’s a pretty high bar,” said Ciardullo, noting that plaintiffs rarely win cases of gross neglect and reckless misconduct against health care providers in the Empire State.

Nursing home administrators say they are relieved by the new law at a time when their staff members are falling ill and not coming to work, protective gear is in short supply, and the government is not providing them with test kits.

But advocates for nursing home residents are alarmed by the immunity law. They say the measure further erodes accountability in a state nursing home system that has long been plagued by short staffing and lax oversight. Because the New York State Department of Health has banned visitors from nursing homes as an infection control precaution, family members’ observations — typically a rich source of evidence in cases — are no longer available.

“It’s just not acceptable that you’re going to put people in harm’s way and then have there be no accountability,” said Richard Mollot of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, finding fault with the law’s provision waiving liability for understaffing during the crisis. “It’s not open season on the elderly.”

By Wednesday, 354 of the state's 613 nursing home facilities had reported at least one confirmed infection, with a total of 6,475 cases in nursing homes statewide. The virus had killed 2,690 residents of the state’s nursing homes, which have a total capacity of 95,000 beds. The 10 hardest-hit facilities had a collective death toll of 396, all in New York City or Westchester County.

State health officials and nursing home administrators cite a lack of PPE, which is being prioritized for hospitals, as a major contributor to the spread of the virus. Some facilities report paying exorbitant prices for the equipment, including masks, gowns and gloves, which help prevent asymptomatic staff from infecting vulnerable patients.

The state's order to nursing homes to take in COVID-19 patients as a way of freeing up hospitals is also compounding the risk of infection at the facilities.

Given all that, “It just seems that liability isn’t the first thing we should be thinking about,” said Jim Clyne, CEO of LeadingAge NY, which represents state and nonprofit nursing homes and lobbied for the law. “We should be supporting them in every way that we can.”

Nursing home administrators understand why hospitals staffers are getting priority for equipment, said Clyne, “but you also need to put a priority on the place that’s going to fill the ICU — the senior community.”

And even though New York health authorities identify elderly people with preexisting conditions as a priority for COVID-19 testing, Clyne noted, nursing homes are not getting test kits.

On top of that, nursing home workers have fallen ill themselves or need to stay home to take care of their children while schools are closed. And while Clyne said nursing homes are often vilified, the staffers are simply “trying to keep very sick people inside alive.”

In a statement to Law360, the state Health Department said, “We've said from the start that protecting our most vulnerable populations including people in nursing homes is our top priority.”

The department added that it “acted quickly and aggressively to issue guidance specifically for these facilities on testing, infection control, environmental cleaning, staffing, visitation, admission, readmission, and outreach to residents and families.”

On Friday, the state health commissioner said his office was working to provide more testing, staff and PPE  to nursing homes.

“We have stockpiles,” said Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, when asked where PPE would come from.

While advocates understand nursing homes are struggling with staffing and supplies in the midst of a deadly outbreak, they are worried about an information blackout during the nursing home lockdown and a lack of consequences for improper care.

Deborah Truhowsky, a plaintiffs lawyer specializing in neglect, elder abuse and medical malpractice cases, told Law360 that she fears the new law may encourage complacency.

“My concern is that facilities are going to feel like they can just not even try” to provide quality care, Truhowsky said. “That part is very alarming.”

Truhowsky said the law leaves neglected residents and their families less evidence to use in court. Nursing home records and family observations are a crucial part of building a case, Truhowsky said, but with record-keeping requirements loosened and family visits banned, there may be little to show a judge and jury.

“Families are really at the mercy of the facility to tell them what’s going on,” Truhowsky said. “That communication, historically, has not been good. Magnify that with this pandemic, and communication is so sparse, difficult, inaccurate and being withheld.”

Truhowsky said she would encourage courts to look at conditions preceding the crisis, including staffing and policies to deal with a potential viral outbreak, in order to establish a pattern of neglect.

“What do you need to control an outbreak? You need to have proper infection control and staffing,” she said.

Information is also lacking at the state level. Health officials have refused to publicly identify all the nursing homes that have COVID-19 cases and deaths, as neighboring states have done, even though the facilities are required to report that data to the state.

The official advocate for nursing home residents, State Ombudsman Claudette Royal, told Law360 that some nursing homes were also declining to provide information about “their COVID-19 status” to residents’ families or to her office. Royal halted all on-site oversight of nursing homes during the pandemic out of concern for her elderly volunteer staff.

Royal's coordinator in New York City, Deirdre Garrett-Scott, said she had received consistent reports of severe understaffing from elderly residents telling her that there was just one nursing aide for 40 to 60 residents and that residents were “not eating, not being toileted, not being showered, not being attended to.”

Garrett-Scott was shocked by the nursing-home fatality statistics released by the state on Friday.

“This is horrifying. This is really horrifying,” she said, viewing the death toll in her region for the first time. She said that while some nursing home administrators had been honest with her about their death toll, at least one Queens facility had clearly lied about it.

Mollot, the residents’ advocate, said that some family members are not even being told about a loved one’s illness, in violation of federal regulations.

“People are dying and family members are not even being told they had the virus or symptoms of the virus until they are dead,” Mollot said.

In an attempt to address these issues, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he would soon be “requiring nursing homes to report positive COVID-19 cases and deaths to the families of those who are living in the nursing home facility within 24 hours.”

The grim challenges faced by nursing homes were on display during a visit to The New Jewish Home in upper Manhattan on Thursday. Bodies were being held in a refrigerated truck parked in the loading dock outside the 500-bed facility because of a backlog at funeral homes, according to workers on-site and the hospital administrator, Dr. Jeffrey Farber.

On Friday, the state released data showing the facility had reported 21 deaths due to COVID-19, what appeared to be an average death toll for the six Manhattan nursing homes listed.

Farber, president of The New Jewish Home, said the facility had proactively taken in COVID-19 patients from hospitals, but that COVID-19 test kits were only sporadically available. He said it was a “daily struggle” to procure PPE, which staff members now clean and reuse.

“The staff are absolutely our health care heroes. They are on the front lines,” Farber said. “They are exhausted. It’s been about a month. They are weary, anxious, scared.”

Farber sees the immunity law as both a “nod of support” to nursing homes and a source of encouragement to medical volunteers who have helped fill the staffing shortages. Six physician volunteers are working for his organization now, he said.

Farber says the family visitor ban is “anathema” to his approach to nursing home care and that staff members are helping residents celebrate birthdays and connect them to their families via video chats.

Still, while Farber’s staff updates family members if a resident falls ill, he said privacy rules bar him from telling a family that a resident’s roommate tested positive for COVID-19. He declined to reveal how many COVID-19 cases or deaths occurred at his facility during an interview with Law360 on Thursday before the state released the death toll on Friday.

“We're doing everything that we can,” Farber said.

The fatal danger COVID-19 poses to older people in nursing homes is clear to state leaders, with Cuomo calling the facilities “ground zero” on Thursday.

“One ember finds its way in and then it’s fire through dry grass,” Cuomo said. “You can’t hermetically seal a nursing home. You can’t put it in a bubble and say I’ll protect these vulnerable people. You can’t. You can’t.”

--Editing by Jill Coffey.

Full Article & Source:
NY Immunity Law Shields Nursing Homes As Virus Toll Soars

Baton Rouge lawyer permanently disbarred; must repay clients nearly $27,000


A Baton Rouge lawyer has been permanently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court for myriad instances of professional misconduct, including being held in contempt of court for failing to appear for scheduled hearings.

J. Renee Martin also was ordered by the high court to pay nearly $27,000 in restitution to 10 clients.

Martin, who was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 2005 but had been under suspension since early 2017, is now "permanently prohibited from being readmitted to the practice of law in this state," the Supreme Court wrote in an order dated last week.

Martin, 39, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

A hearing committee had recommended to the high court that Martin be permanently disbarred because her offenses were so egregious.

"We agree," the justices said. "(Martin) has failed to account for or refund approximately $27,000 in client funds. In one instance, she settled a personal injury claim without her client's consent. She then failed to remit the funds owed to the client from the settlement and took an unauthorized fee from the settlement for work she was not contracted to do."

The Supreme Court also pointed out that Martin continued to practice law after the court placed her on interim suspension in February 2017.

The Supreme Court noted that she failed to answer the formal charges filed against her last summer by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. She also submitted nothing for the hearing committee's consideration, the court added.

One of the formal charges stated that Martin failed to appear twice in February 2016 on behalf of a client in the 19th Judicial District Court, prompting a judge to issue a bench warrant for her. She then gave "unsatisfactory answers" about the missed court dates at a March 2016 contempt hearing, the Supreme Court said.

The judge fined Martin $100 to recall the warrant, found her in contempt of court for failing to appear, fined her $500 for that failure and sentenced her to 30 days in jail, which was suspended upon payment of the $500 fine.

Then in September 2016, 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards III filed a complaint with the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel regarding Martin's "repeated failures" to appear on behalf of a criminal client.

Her areas of law practice included family law, divorce, estate and power of attorney. She also handled personal injury cases.

Full Article & Source: 
Baton Rouge lawyer permanently disbarred; must repay clients nearly $27,000

22 long-term care facilities in Northeast Florida have positive COVID-19 tests

Florida released the names of all 303 Florida long-term care facilities that have been hit by the novel coronavirus.


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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health on Saturday released the names of every Florida long-term care facility where a resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Department of Health, 303 long-term care facilities in Florida have had positive tests for novel coronavirus, including 22 facilities in Northeast Florida. Duval and Clay Counties have the highest number of affected facilities, according to state data released Saturday evening.

Here’s a list of all the known facilities in Northeast Florida:
  • Alachua: Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, Parklands Care Center
  • Baker: Macclenny Nursing and Rehab Center, W Frank Wells Nursing Home
  • Bradford: Riverwood Health & Rehabilitation Center, Windsor Health And Rehabilitation Center
  • Clay: Brookdale Orange Park, Diamond Alf Llc, Governors Creek Health And Rehabilitation, Heartland Health Care Center - Orange Park, Isle Health And Rehabilitation Center, Seagrass Village Of Fleming Island
  • Duval: Camellia At Deerwood, Cathedral Gerontology Center Inc., Fannie E. Taylor Home For The Aged- Taylor Manor, INC., Jacksonville Nursing And Rehab Center, Lanier Rehabilitation Center, Palm Garden Of Jacksonville, Wyndham Lakes Jacksonville
  • Nassau: Life Care Center Of Hilliard
  • Putnam: Vintage Care Senior Housing
  • St. Johns: Starling At Nocatee
The complete list of affected long-term care facilities in the state can be viewed here.

Of the 1,694 cases of residents or staff in long-term care facilities in Florida, 169 have died.

Residents of elder care facilities in Florida have been dying for weeks, but Wednesday marked the first time the state disclosed the number of people tied to long-term care facilities who died from the virus in each county. As of Thursday morning, that total number stood at 126.

Since March 21, the numbers ballooned from 19 people sick in long-term care facilities across the state to nearly 1,700 cases among facilities’ residents and staff. The state previously published how many cases were in each county but declined to release the names of facilities with outbreaks and deaths.

Some facilities, like Jacksonville senior-living communities Camellia at Deerwood and Taylor Manor, and Clay County senior facility Heartland Healthcare at Orange Park, have confirmed having at least one or more cases of COVID-19. Those facilities declined to release the case and death totals.

Macclenny Nursing & Rehab Center in Baker County has reported multiple cases, as has Life Care Center of Hilliard in nearby Nassau County, which has confirmed three positives among two residents and one staffer.

At least two families have confirmed their loved ones, who were residents of Camellia at Deerwood, have died from COVID-19 complications.

As of Saturday evening, there were 89 COVID-19 cases in Clay County long-term facilities, 56 cases in Duval County, 28 cases in Bradford County, 21 in Alachua County, 12 in Baker County, seven in Putnam County, five in Columbia County, five in St. Johns County, three in Nassau County and two in Flagler County.

A total of 18 patients at Northeast Florida long-term care facilities, which includes nursing homes and assisted living facilities, have died.

On Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he has asked the Florida National Guard to expand its strike team that was put in place to test high-risk people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“This is something that’s really important,” he said. “What we found is that you may have everyone doing everything right in one of these facilities, but you could have a staff member who’s not symptomatic, and it can go and it could spread throughout the staff and spread to the residents very, very quickly. So we, because of that, that’s why we did the National Guard strike teams. So we have them going to different facilities they’re doing spot testing or trying to if we identify an outbreak contain it so that doesn’t spread like wildfire throughout the facility.”

Full Article & Source:
22 long-term care facilities in Northeast Florida have positive COVID-19 tests

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Management at three nursing homes failed to protect vulnerable residents and staff, alleges nurses’ association in court filing

By Jesse McLean & Moira Welsh

Three Ontario nursing homes with devastating COVID-19 outbreaks that have killed a total of at least 50 seniors kept infected residents among the healthy, allowing the virus to spread, allege newly filed court documents.

The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) has asked a Superior Court judge to order the homes, including Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, to stop “breaching” directives made by Ontario’s chief medical officer meant to protect the vulnerable seniors and the staff who serve them.

The nurse association’s court filings allege the long-term-care homes rationed personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, locking them in cupboards. In the early days of the pandemic at one home, management chastised staff who wore surgical masks, saying they would “scare the residents,” the ONA alleges.

All three homes have made headlines in recent weeks as outbreaks spread and death tolls climb. At Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, at least 31 residents have died. At Anson Place in Hagersville, at least 19 residents have died. At North York’s Hawthorne Place, the ONA says there are six residents with COVID-19. 

The homes, operated by Rykka Care Centres, continue to flout “best practices” and preventative measures, the court application alleges.

“As a result, the outbreaks have occurred and spread and are out of control and resident and staff safety is at imminent risk. It has and will continue to result in harm including death for residents and to staff working at these facilities as occurred,” ONA chief executive officer Beverly Mathers said in an affidavit filed in the Superior Court of Ontario.

A sign on a property next door to Anson Place shows support for front line workers. At the home in Hagersville, at least 19 residents have died.

The managing partner of Rykka is Responsive Group. Officials from that organization did not respond to questions from the Star by deadline.

In an April 9 letter sent to the ONA, the executive director of Anson Place said, “We want to assure you that the safety of our residents and employees is our highest priority.”

The letter said the home is working with the medical officer of health and public health authorities to best “protect our residents and staff.”

The coronavirus continues to tear through Ontario’s nursing homes, where at least 933 residents and 530 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Premier Doug Ford has vowed to put an “iron ring” around the homes, and the province this week put in place more stringent measures to stem the virus’s spread.

The ONA’s court filing alleges the Rykka-operated homes did not follow a mandatory order issued by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health stating that long-term-care homes must use staff and resident “cohorting to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

All three Rykka homes subject to court action are older buildings that house seniors “with up to four residents in a single room,” the ONA said in court filings.

In the April 9 letter to the ONA, the executive director of Anson Place said all residents were being isolated and assumed to have COVID-19, regardless of whether they had been tested. 

“Like many nursing homes in Ontario, there are some ward rooms which have four residents. In these rooms a partition separates the room into two, having two residents on each side. We are protecting these two residents with a privacy curtain between these beds which will mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the letter read. 

Anson Place also “enhanced our cleaning measures” and increased screenings of staff and residents, according to the letter.

The nurses association alleges Anson Place and the other two homes also have not made N95 respirators readily available for staff “providing care to residents with confirmed, suspected or presumed COVID-19.

“This includes times when these (nurses) are required to deal with symptomatic residents who are coughing or choking,” the ONA’s Mathers said in her affidavit.

Long-Term Care Registered Nurses Working in Unfathomable Conditions, says ONA 

“As the media has noted, dozens of long-term care facilities across Ontario are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks and resident deaths,” says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “Our hearts go out to the residents and their families, and to the staff who provide the day-to-day care – and who consequently become very close to their residents. Our nurses and all health-care workers in this sector are doing the very best they can, even as dozens of them have become infected themselves.” #ProtectLTCNow
At Hawthorne Place in North York, Mathers alleges that nurses and other staff were initially directed by a manager “not to wear even a surgical mask as it would scare the residents.” N95 respirators were kept under lock and key, and staff working late shifts could not access even basic masks, the ONA alleges.

At Anson Place in Hagersville, when a COVID outbreak was declared on March 29, the nursing home “did not put its own pandemic plan into effect … and only very minimal PPE was provided to staff,” the court filing alleges.

“Long-term-care nurses are very much the front-line workers in this pandemic … They need N95 respirators for this pandemic. They should not have to beg for them and have to run around searching for them in locked cabinets,” Mathers said in the affidavit. 

She said nurses and health-care workers in these facilities and others are getting sick at an “alarming rate.”

In the April 9 letter to the ONA, the executive director said all Anson Place “employees in the home are wearing surgical masks and gowns,” as well as gloves and eye shields, when attending to residents.

The staff will wear N95 masks “in some instances,” such as when performing a swab test, the letter said, adding that the home has “ample supply of PPE and will continue to protect its employees and residents.”

In long-term-care homes, the Public Health Ontario guidelines say N95 masks are to be used when, for example, suctioning the airways of a resident with or suspected to have COVID-19. The guidelines also say the procedure should be performed in a single room with the door closed.

The test for COVID-19, when a long narrow swab is inserted into the nose, does not require an N95 mask, the guidelines say. When performing a nasopharyngeal swab, staff should wear eye goggles or a mask, along with an isolation gown and gloves, the guidelines said. 

In its court filings, the ONA says given the scientific uncertainty surrounding how this novel virus can be transmitted, “the provision of N95 respirators is a reasonable precaution that Ontario employers should be taking for health-care workers.”

“At the very least, this life-saving personal protective equipment must be made readily available to and accessible by ONA’s members who provide care to suspected or known cases of COVID-19,” the ONA says in its court application.
The association also filed a second application against Primacare Living’s Henley Place in London, saying the house has an outbreak and staff have “not been provided with readily available access” to PPE such as N95 respirators when providing care to residents with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. The court document said an ONA member was required to care for a resident with COVID-19 without access to an N95 respirator and “was terrified for her safety.”

Full Article & Source:
Management at three nursing homes failed to protect vulnerable residents and staff, alleges nurses’ association in court filing

Stark County Probate Court makes changes

CANTON The Stark County Probate Court has revised its previously issued COVID-19 mitigation procedures, effective this week.

Here are the rules through at least May 1, according to a press release from Judge Dixie Park:

• Filings must be made by mail or e-mail; e-mail filings require prior approval and do not include original pleadings; filings which must be made in person, should contact the Court first at 330-451-7755 — a drop-off box will be provided outside the filing desk.

• Pretrials and uncontested hearings will be conducted by phone or video. Parties not represented by an attorney should contact the Court for instructions.

• Guardianship review, emergency guardianship and Adult Protective Services hearings will be conducted by phone or video.

• All contested matters are postponed.

• Mediations will be held by phone or video.

• Eldercare coordinations will be conducted by phone or video.

• Guardianship training is postponed until June.

• Adoption hearings will be video conference or rescheduled and notice of the new hearing date will be mailed. Uncontested name change hearings will be rescheduled and go forward by video conference.

• Marriage license applications are by appointment only. Call 330-451-7755 to make an appointment. Complete the application and have necessary documentation prior to appointment.

• The court requests birth record corrections, delayed birth registrations and marriage record requests -- with fee -- be submitted by mail.

For more information, contact the court at the above phone number or visit:

The court will review the temporary COVID-19 procedures on May 1.

Full Article & Source:
Stark County Probate Court makes changes

‘Nobody calls you back.’ For families, no answers from N.J. nursing home where 38 died from coronavirus

Mary Lust, a resident of Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, has the COVID-19 virus, but her daughter says it is difficult to reach anyone at the nursing home.Ed Murray for NJ Advance Media | Photo of Mary Lust courtesy of her family
By Ted Sherman

Before the news of the mounting death toll at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, Amanda Schultz had already been growing increasingly concerned about the Sussex County nursing home caring for her mother.

Her mind clouded by the onslaught of Alzheimer’s Disease, 75-year-old Mary Lust initially found refuge at Andover’s Unit 1, a place that Schultz felt was a pleasant facility with a lot of activities for residents.

“The staff was always very nice. They would play Bingo. And every Sunday they had church services for the residents,” recalled Schultz.

But as her mother continued to deteriorate, Schultz said her mother was moved into the larger of the two facilities on the site, and it was like she had landed on another planet. It was more like a hospital, she said. There were so many wheelchairs jamming the corridors that she had fears over how anyone would even get out in the event of a fire, Schultz said. At the same time, it seemed there was never enough staff.

Now her mother is critically ill, has tested positive for COVID-19, and Schultz struggles to get anyone to respond to her calls.

“Nobody calls you back. They said they’ll take my name and number, and nobody calls me back,” she complained.

Other family members of residents at the troubled Andover nursing home also complain they are being left in the dark, even as many more continue to be stricken by the coronavirus.

State officials have their own questions, in the wake of last week’s startling disclosures that nursing home administrators stored at least 17 bodies in rooms set up as temporary morgues. The continuing coronavirus outbreak took the lives of at least 38 residents, according to Sussex County health officials. Two staff members have also died.

Inspectors from the state and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, visited the facility in Andover Township in northwestern New Jersey on Friday, said state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, and issued a number of citations over infection control deficiencies.

Andover Subacute and Rehab, meanwhile, hired a lawyer, retaining former state Attorney General Christopher Porrino of Lowenstein Sandler to represent the facility.

In a statement on Sunday, Porrino said the nursing home looked forward to assisting with any review by the state of recent events, and “is confident that such review will confirm that the facility has been addressing the unprecedented challenges from this pandemic appropriately.”

One of the largest long-term care facilities in the state, Andover Subacute is licensed for 699 beds. It is owned in part by Chaim “Mutty” Scheinbaum through Lakewood-based Alliance Healthcare Holdings. Scheinbaum also has ownership stakes in nursing homes in Pennsauken and Cinnaminson in New Jersey, and two other nursing homes in Pennsylvania.

In an email last week, Scheinbaum blamed the storage of bodies and the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus to a “backup ... after hours holiday weekend issues" and “more-than-average deaths.”

Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, whose district includes Sussex County believes the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus at Andover are far higher than reported.

Gottheimer said he does not believe the COVID-19 death toll is just 38 at the Andover facility.

“Clearly there was a massive outbreak there and it’s spreading like wildfire,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said the issues at Andover have sparked a number of other facilities to seek help, with at least 45 facilities in his congressional district dealing with their own outbreaks that have critical staffing and protective equipment needs.

“This to me is a five-alarm fire,” he said on Sunday, pointing to the number of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes that continue to shoot up. In conversations with nursing home administrators, Gottheimer said many have expressed an urgent need for personnel and PPEs, including masks, shields and gowns. But his office has also heard separately from nursing home workers, who have questioned whether facilities are taking proper precautions against coronavirus infection and following infection control protocols.

Others, he said, have complained there has been a failure to reach out to those with loved ones in many long-term care facilities, including Andover.

Schultz said since the stories about Andover became national news, she has been unable to reach anyone at the nursing home unless they call her.

“Yesterday I called, and they said they were not putting anybody through,” she said.

Another relative of an Andover resident, David Beck said no one from the family has been able to reach anyone at the facility since last Wednesday, when the sister of his cousin, Arnold Kudrowitz, 74, received a call that her brother had tested positive for coronavirus.

“She tried to call a number of times and nobody answered. Nobody is telling her anything,” said Beck. “They’re not taking phone calls.”

He tried calling four times on Sunday afternoon, but said no one picked up the phone.

Gottheimer said there was been a complete failure by Andover’s administrators to communicate with families.

“People are scared. Families are scared. Residents are scared,” said the congressman. “You have to have good communications.”

Full Article & Source:
‘Nobody calls you back.’ For families, no answers from N.J. nursing home where 38 died from coronavirus