Nursing Homes Struggle To Accommodate Visitors

Nursing Homes Struggle

To Accommodate Visitors

Cost Of Tests Among Hurdles To Contact

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Levi Lazar

COOPERSTOWN – For months after Governor Cuomo’s March 13 executive order on COVID-19, many families in Otsego County, as around the state, were unable to visit their loved ones in nursing homes, except perhaps through a window.

“Our first obligation is to keep our residents healthy,” said Levi Lazar, director at the Cooperstown Center, operated by the Centers Health Care, based in White Plains.  “Their psychological and social wellbeing is also very important to us.  We want our residents to see their families.”

As of Sept. 15, the regulations changed.

Now, family members who have gotten negative COVID-19 test results in the previous seven days may visit residents in establishments like the Center at Cooperstown, Lazar said.  But that hasn’t erased all the challenges, he said in an interview today.

One of the biggest remaining hurdles is financial.  Only the WellNow urgicenter on Oneonta’s Southside is now providing the tests on demand, but charges $100, according to its website, or $60 for rapid-test.

At testing sites like Bassett or Fox hospitals, “one, you have to show symptoms.  And, two, they charge you,” Lazar said.

A county Health Department spokesman said the DOH has held four free clinics so far around the county – in Schuyler Lake, Southside Oneonta, and points in between – and may schedule another one as soon as next week.

Additionally, state regulations limit visitations to 15 percent of total beds per day, said Lazar.  That would be about 25 daily visits in the 174-bed facility in Index, but only about eight visits are occurring now, he said.

Throughout, he said, residents have also been able to connect with family members via Zoom, and such virtual meetings are scheduled every half-hour.

Plus, visitors could talk with residents through an open window, but after not seeing family members for months, residents tend to get over-excited, so that can be problematic, Lazar said.

“The governor wants facilities to use commonsense as well,” he added.  “If there’s a local outbreak, like SUNY Oneonta, you maybe pause a little bit.  But there was an outcry from families.

“On the other side of the coin,” he continued.  “Other families call to say, ‘Please, cut off visitations.’  And one outspoken residents told family members, ‘please don’t visit.’”

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