The coronavirus pandemic has emptied out scores of New York’s nursing homes, new data obtained by The Post reveal.
Reports provided to the US Centers for Disease Control show that occupancy rates at 146 of the state’s nursing homes and rehab facilities plummeted by more than 20 percent since the end of last year– with most of the soaring vacancies occurring in New York City and the surrounding suburbs.
Some nursing facilities reported occupancy rates had tumbled by more than 40 percent or 50 percent through the first week of June, according to figures filed with the CDC last month.
Overall, the census of patients for all of New York’s 600 nursing dropped by 13 percent – seventh highest in the country. New Jersey had a 22 percent drop in nursing home residents – leading the nation.
New York has reported more than 6,300 COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred to how COVID-19 cuts down senior citizens “like fire through dry grass.”
Cuomo himself has come under fire for a controversial March 25 order – since repealed — that required nursing homes to admit or readmit recovering COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals that critics claim contributed to the disease spreading through facilities filled with the vulnerable, older residents.
A recent state Health Department insisted that nursing home workers and visitors were responsible for spreading the virus in nursing homes – not state policy.
COVID-19 deaths are only one reason for the empty beds.
The fear of a loved one catching the killer bug and visitation restrictions also have caused a marked drop in New York families wanting to move into a nursing home, industry sources said.
They also note that nursing homes and rehab centers have received fewer hospital referrals for patients requiring post-surgical care.
Cuomo issued an order in March that postpone elective surgeries so hospitals could devote resources to treat a surge of COVID-19 patients. He lifted the ban on surgeries when the crisis subsided.
“Battered by the perfect storm of COVID deaths, a dramatic reduction in patients released from hospitals and surgicenters, and a pervasive impression that nursing homes residents cannot see their families, census within New York’s Long Term Care Facilities are at all- time lows,” said Michael Balboni, executive director of the Greater NY Health Care Facilities Association.
Jim Clyne, executive director of Leading Age, another nursing home lobbying group, said, “Three factors are driving the lower occupancy rate: lack of hospital discharges where the vast majority of nursing home placements come from; the high death rate of the people over age 75 in NYS (large majority of nursing home residents are over 75); and a general concern from the public about going to health care providers. ”
Nursing homes that the Post highlighted for a high number of COVID-deaths, infections or complaints were among the facilities reporting a huge jump in vacancies/drop in occupancy.
The Cobble Nursing Home in Brooklyn reported a 65 percent occupancy rate – a drop of 34 percent since last December. The facility reported 56 deaths linked to COVID-19 – six confirmed and 50 presumed, according to state Health Department data. The overwhelmed operator said he had been rebuffed when he appealed to state officials to transfer suspected COVID-19 patients to the make-shift emergency hospital at the Javits Center or the medical facility on the Navy’s Comfort ship.
The Isabella Nursing Home in Washington Heights, which reported a total of 66 resident confirmed or presumed COVID-19 deaths, saw a 29 percent reduction in residents.
The King David Nursing Home in Gravesend Brooklyn, with 34 confirmed or suspected viral deaths, saw a 27 percent drop in residents.
State-run nursing homes for military veterans were also hard-hit.
The number of residents at the NY Veterans Home in Jamaica, Queens plunged 37 percent, and its facility is now nearly half-empty, with 55 a percent occupancy.
The Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook is now one-third empty (65% occupancy) after the number of residents plunged by 35 percent.
The Parker Jewish Nursing Home in New Hyde Park, with 82 confirmed coronavirus deaths, has 30 percent fewer residents, with its occupancy falling to 67 percent.
Sapphire Center for Rehab and Nursing in Flushing, with 55 confirmed or presumed deaths, saw its resident census fall by 34 percent. It is now more than one-third empty with a 63 percent occupancy rate. Families had complained they could not get information about loved ones who died during the peak of pandemic.
Nursing rehab facilities dependent on hospitals referrals for post-surgical care saw even large drops in occupancy. For example, The Village Care Rehabilitation Nursing Center in Greenwich Village saw its resident count drop by more than half, to 46 percent occupancy.
Health Department spokeswoman Jill Montag, whose agency runs the veterans’ nursing homes said of the jump in vacancies, “There are a variety of factors behind the decrease in the current nursing home population, including facilities transferring residents to other facilities, nursing homes voluntarily stopping or dramatically decreasing the number of admissions and a decrease in elective surgeries over the last several months.”
Richard J. Brum, general Counsel of the Allure Group that operates the King David Nursing Home, said, “With the worst behind us, everything we’re doing is focused on creating an even safer, more comfortable care environment for our residents and staff. Infection control is our top priority and we have taken extraordinary measures to guard against future spread of COVID…..We are so grateful for those who stood with nursing homes during this unprecedented health crisis and join all New Yorkers in our readiness to keep moving forward.”
Other nursing homes mentioned declined requests for comment.