Nurse’s aide who quit The Villages says nursing home short-staffed

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 13 May 2020 at 9:26 am

‘It broke my heart to leave them,’ aide says about leaving her job

ALBION – Hope Albone, 20, of Medina loved her job as a nurse’s aide at The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in Albion. The residents were like a second family to her.

But when so many started dying one after the other, she realized something was dreadfully wrong.

To date, 75 residents in the 120-bed facility have tested positive for the coronavirus and 19 have died, accounting for all but one of the Covid-19 deaths in Orleans County.

Realizing she had a duty to think of herself and her family at home, Albone quit her job last Sunday.

“It broke my heart to leave them,” said Albone, fearing the practices at the facility would eventually cause her to fall ill.

Albone has not only talked to the State Attorney General’s Office, but has agreed to go public with her complaints of the facility in an effort to save the lives of the remaining residents. Other former staff members have also spoken to the media, sharing complaints about a lack of personal protective equipment and concerns about the management.

Albone said when the first case of the virus broke out in one hall, staff understood extra precautions were needed to protect residents and staff. But that didn’t happen.

“We were told we had to share gowns,” she said. “We knew that wasn’t right because we’d been told how easily the virus can spread from a sneeze or droplet. That really upset me.”

The Attorney General’s Office was alerted to questionable practices at the facility and Albone received a call from an AG representative after the first diagnosis. She doesn’t know how he happened to call her, but she sent him pictures of dirty gowns hanging on the wall, waiting to be worn the next day or shift.

“The attorney general asked me what we’re doing in regard to the coronavirus,” Albone said about the representative. “I told him what we had done at first, when all our clothes were in isolation bins. But once it started spreading, the nursing director locked the N-95 masks in her office and we were ordered to wear dirty gowns.”

In regards to being short staffed, Albone said the nursing director is also a registered nurse, but doesn’t come out on the floor to help, only when the Health Department is there conducting an inspection.

“She doesn’t think how tired we get on the floor,” Albone said.

One night, Albone came in to work the third shift and found she was the only aide with two nurses for the entire facility – one nurse in the dementia and rehabilitation unit and another for The Villages.

“I stood there and cried,” she said.

Normally, two aides are responsible for 20 rooms, the majority of which have two residents per room.

Albone also said when the health inspector comes by, dirty gowns are gone, masks are out and everything looks as it should. She said that is because it is suspected the nursing director gets tipped off about an inspection from the State Department of Health.

(The State Department of Health said it did an unannounced inspection on April 29 and found The Villages of Orleans in compliance with infection control practices and CDC-supported guidelines issued by the state.)

“The nurses and aides do the best they can to make the residents’ families and friends feel the best we can, but administration just doesn’t care,” Albone said.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Batavia has urged a full-scale investigation of The Villages and the quality of care and its handling of the virus. He said the Attorney General’s Office, State Department of Health, District Attorney’s Office, Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Department of Health and Human Services are all involved in the investigation.

“My goal here is to get all the parties involved who can assist in making this investigation more thorough and complete,” Hawley said on Friday. “By involving all of these departments on all of these levels of government and public safety, we are ensuring that no stone is left unturned, and that our residents and staff at The Villages’ lives and quality of care are safeguarded.”

The nursing home, formerly owned by the county, has struggled with staffing, long before Covid-19. Due the staffing issues, The Villages contracted to bring six aides from Louisiana.

Some of the staff tested positive for Covid-19 but didn’t have symptoms. The local Health Department said that is one factor in how the virus spread in the facility.

Albone said it is heartbreaking what has happened to those residents of The Villages and what they are faced with now. She said there used to be phones in the hall so residents could talk to their family, but those were taken out even before the outbreak of the virus. And now many of the residents have no way to communicate with their families.

Albone has two brothers who are 1 and 2 years old, and a sister who is pregnant. Her sister also worked at The Villages, but their mother made her quit at the beginning of the outbreak, telling her she had herself and a baby to think about.

“It was so hard for me to leave, but I had to think of my family at home,” Albone said.

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article said a dialysis patient who went to Batavia was the first person to be diagnosed with Covid-19 at The Villages. Orleans Community Health, which has dialysis centers in Batavia and Medina, said none of its patients have had Covid-19.)

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