Monroe County Democratic Legislator Vincent Felder called for changes in the oversight of Monroe Community Hospital.
Standing with members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus at a news conference April 14, Felder said the county-run nursing home needs a governing board to replace the advisory board that he said lacks the ability to set policy.
The comments came after the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus released a letter from an employee at MCH who alleged staff shortages that risk compromised care.
The state Department of Health said in March it started an investigation into allegations at Monroe Community Hospital.
“People need to have confidence,” Felder said. “It’s a public institution. The best way is to create a board that can hold the hospital administration and the staff accountable.”
Felder said he has been told that the county executive is the governing body.
“The county executive has to run the entire county,” Felder said. “He does not have the time to micromanage what’s going on at Monroe Community Hospital. … We need a governing board at the hospital.”
He said such a board could be made up of a representative of the county executive, the legislative caucuses, the hospital systems, Common Ground Health and people with experience running nursing homes.
Felder said the Monroe County Legislature voted at its April 13 meeting to approve a $500,000 settlement in a lawsuit stemming from an incident in 2013 at Monroe Community Hospital. Felder said the details were confidential.
As for the letter that prompted the news conference, no specific incident was detailed. Media received a copy of the letter, but it did not have a signature. Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, leader of the Black and Asian Caucus, said the writer feared retaliation if he or she were publicly identified. He declined to say whether other letters had been received.
Flagler-Mitchell called for an investigation by the county Office for Public Integrity into:
- whether personal protective equipment had been provided since the beginning of the pandemic;
- the number of staff let go since the pandemic;
- how many staff and residents contracted COVID and how many residents died from the virus;
- the heating and working conditions;
- whether the MCH administration knew of the allegations in the letter and had done anything to address them.
Flagler-Mitchell asked for a timeframe for the investigation and for a report to the legislature.
The letter was dated Feb. 4, 2021 and was written to express concerns of nurse manager, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nurse assistants and residents.
The letter writer said staff are forced to work 16-hour shifts and have to cover other units because of shortage of personnel. The writer said at the end of a shift, a supervisor will mandate overtime and if the employee refuses, the person risks a reprimand.
The writer said staff is unable to provide residents with “the proper level of care” and that residents are suffering. The writer said that the heat was inconsistent, leading staff to have to put blankets on residents.
Flagler-Mitchell said the allegations affected resident well-being. He said the claims also affected staff by potentially limiting their ability to get education needed for career advancement and could create a burden with childcare if they had to work beyond a scheduled shift.
He said many of the staff and the residents are people of color, and the alleged problems affect people represented by the caucus.
Staff for County Executive Adam Bello did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
State Department of Health spokesman Jeffrey Hammond, in response to an email request for information, said that “as a result of a DOH investigation on March 19, multiple deficiencies were cited at Monroe Community Hospital, including staffing. As this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”
The state reviews every complaint received and if the home is found deficient, it must submit a plan of correction. Individuals who have a complaint or concern about a nursing home can call the Centralized Complaint Intake at (888) 201-4563. Complaints are kept confidential.
The health department posts history of complaints and inspections at profiles.health.ny.gov. From February 2017 through January 2021, MCH had 74 complaints per 100 occupied beds, about 50% higher than the state average. The facility received 11 complaint-related citations – three for quality of care and six for resident rights.
The facility had 30 health citations in that period – generated by complaint or through an inspection – and most were deemed isolated instances with potential for moderate harm.