#New York nursing homes can’t get staff COVID-19 test results back for weeks

#New York nursing homes can’t get staff COVID-19 test results back for weeks

ALBANY — Many New York Nursing homes — now in their third round of COVID-19 testing of staffers — still haven’t received the results back from their first tests three weeks ago because the research labs are so overwhelmed, The Post has learned.

“The governor’s thought was, you get a test and get the results in two days. But, getting a test from a week and a half ago defeats the purpose,” said Mary Margaret Wagner, administrator at the Chautauqua Nursing and Rehab Center in the upstate city of Dunkirk.

“You could have someone who tests positive and is at work,” she said.

In early May, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Health announced all nursing homes and adult care facilities must test full-time staffers twice a week for the coronavirus, and all part-timers once a week.

If a worker tests positive, they must stay at home and quarantine for two weeks.

The 613 nursing homes and over 500 adult care facilities that don’t comply are also subject to penalties including the revocation of licenses.

Since then, facilities have been scrambling to comply with ever-changing and edited regulations, plus finding facilities to perform the tests, securing contracts with labs to process those tests and finding out whether or not insurance will pay for it.

The struggle is a burden for operators, as the coronavirus has ravaged nursing home patients, resulting in over 5,800 deaths in New York.

Wagner said she tested 325 employees, herself included, four times in two weeks, but it’s been crickets from the two labs she’s contracted with — BioLabs in Pennsylvania and Genesis Lab in New Jersey.

“So, as we find out they are overwhelmed, we go to the other lab. We’re really working with two labs and trying to get the stuff put in together. But it’s been two full weeks with no tests back. Two at the end of May and two in the first week of June,” she added.

“If we can’t get the results back [now] it’s defeating the purpose because I could get the results back that could be a month old.”

Wagner also received damaged “moldy and expired” kits from DOH from a batch of 600 sent weekly.

“It’s a huge burden for staff and a huge financial burden for the facility and a huge labor issue,” adding she tests staff on Tuesdays and Fridays in-house.

“At our facility it’s $60 a test, $120 a week times 325 employees and the insurance company isn’t covering it at all,” she said.

The delay is also resulting in the cancelation of elective surgeries.

Mary LaRowe, CEO of Brooks Memorial Hospital also in Dunkirk, told The Post on June 1, seven elective surgeries were canceled because Quest Diagnostics Lab didn’t send COVID-19 results ahead of the scheduled surgeries.

Per state DOH rules, people who schedule elective surgeries must get a test result within a three-day window.

But increased nursing home testing has stymied Quest’s turnaround time, increasing it from two or three days to an average of five days, LaRowe said.

She also said in conference calls organized by Rep. Tom Reed (R-Rochester), other healthcare professionals have similarly reported lags since the nursing home test mandate was put in place, reporting it could take as long as seven days to get results from labs.

Reps in other upstate areas, like Steuben County, told The Post it used to take only one to three days maximum for COVID-19 test results, but that has grown to a four- to seven-day lag.

The state Health Department defended Cuomo’s directive to The Post.

“The guidance is clear and the directive is critically important. We’re protecting front line workers and the residents they support. We’ve sent more than 800,000 test kits – including a supply of nearly 3,000 kits to this specific facility alone,” said spokesman Gary Holmes.

“It’s up to the facility to work with their contracted labs to ensure they are getting results. Having said that, this facility is in compliance for submitting a testing plan and putting it in motion. Those who can’t will be held accountable.”


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