State Health Department inspectors showed up to Van Rensselaer Manor nursing home on Wednesday to conduct a random inspection.
However, the inspectors were turned away when they were unable to prove that they have tested negative for COVID-19.
“If you’re sending inspectors out then you should have proof that you have a negative COVID test and to not do that is arrogant, it’s obnoxious and it’s callous,” Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin explained. “And I’m not allowing it here.”
Currently, state rules require that anyone who enters a nursing home facility show proof that within the last seven days they have been tested and are COVID-19 free.
This goes for both staff and visitors.
County Executive McLaughlin said that staff at the county-run facility asked these state health department inspectors to either show proof of a COVID-19 test or to sign a paper attesting that they are COVID-19 free.
“They refused to do it,” McLaughlin said. “One of the seven pulled out his phone and said, ‘here’s my negative test.’ Terrific, we said he could go in. No problem. He got scolded by one of the other six, you shouldn’t have done that. Why? I’m not taking their word for it. I’m trying to save lives.”
Gary Holmes, a spokesperson for the state health department, said that so far they have conducted 2,000 ‘COVID Focus Surveys’ at nursing homes across the state and never have they encountered this type of resistance.
This is the second time state health department inspectors have been turned away from this facility.
Holmes sent a statement saying, “Although not required by federal mandate our inspectors are tested weekly in the same manner as the staff at Van Rensselaer Manor. This is a reckless obstruction of a federally mandated inspection and we have referred the matter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”
The purpose of these inspections is to ensure that these facilities have enough PPE, they are following safety protocols and at times they will provide feedback.
Rensselaer County legislator Tom Grant says he agrees that these inspections are important.
“They’re essential,” Grant explained. “The health department inspectors do a wonderful job. Over the years they have worked closely with the Manor personnel. This is a very strong partnership. We’ve had so many changes we have had to undergo, through COVID-19. The only change we’re asking here is for people to provide a signature attesting that they’re healthy.”
Van Rensselaer Manor has not had a single death due to COVID-19 and only one resident tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the entire pandemic.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s senior advisor Rich Azzopardi responded to McLaughlin’s actions, saying, “He’s been making up rules and trying to disrupt this entire pandemic. I know he calls himself the boss but no one actually buys it. He should get out of the way and let the professionals at the state health department and CMS do their jobs.”