Crown Heights Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. Photo: Google Maps.
Crown Heights Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. Photo: Google Maps.

The bodies of eight elderly residents were left for days before being collected from a Crown Heights nursing home, staff told activist and assembly candidate Stefani Zinerman.

Zinerman said she received a call from a very distressed staff member at Crown Heights Centre for Nursing and Rehabilitation (CHC) early last week who had already spoken with management, and was trying to get something done about the situation immediately.

“They told me there were eight bodies at the facility, two of which had been there for over a week,” Zinerman said. “The smell of the decaying bodies was to the degree the staff had to pour bleach on the floor.”

She said the staff member was concerned about the welfare of patients and other staff, given there was inadequate personal protective equipment. They were too scared of losing their job to speak on the record, she said.

“Under normal circumstances if these were individuals with other options, the staff would have walked out, but people need their jobs,” said Zinerman. “It’s an equity issue… local neighborhood people who aren’t resourced end up in horrible situations because people know they can exploit them.”

Zinerman contacted the Mayor’s office and elected officials to get the bodies collected by the medical examiner, which she said still took a couple of days due the backlog.

Attorney General Letitia James is monitoring CHC, following numerous complaints about disturbing conditions.

“The health and safety of our vulnerable communities is our top priority, and we will continue to work diligently to protect these residents and those across our state,” said James.

“While this is a challenging time for all caretakers, the responsibility to treat elderly and disabled nursing home residents with the care and respect they deserve remains paramount.”

Assemblywoman Diana Richardson and State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo asking that CHC go under receivership so the State can take control of the company’s property and operations.

Richardson said her office was closely monitoring the conditions at the facility to make sure the life and care standards were met. She said she understood the strain on rehabilitation centers due to the pandemic, and wanted to support front-line staff at facilities to provide care during the crisis.

Richard J. Brum, general counsel for the Allure Group which owns CHC, said, like all nursing homes they found themselves on the front lines of this public health crisis.

A statewide directive requiring nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients who had been discharged from hospitals has attracted criticism for increasing risk in the facilities, said Brum, and unfortunately the directive brought with it inevitable deaths.

More than 2000 nursing home residents have died across the State during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite strict no-visitor policies enacted to protect vulnerable residents, and deaths from the virus are putting increasing pressure on hospitals, morgues, and funeral homes, exposing the lack of capacity in the system.

Brum said arrangements had been made for a temporary morgue at the center, which would help alleviate the backlog at local morgues and funeral homes, and said there was now adequate personal protective equipment for staff, and the center was in daily contact with the Department of Health.

“We are doing everything in our power to protect them [staff] and our residents.”

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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