November 14, 2023
Families of over 100 veterans who died at the New York State Veterans Home have sued over what they are describing as “one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.”
Families of over 100 veterans who died at the New York State Veterans Home in Queens, New York, have sued the Veterans Home over what they are describing as “one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.”
On Nov 4, according to the New York Post, the families filed a suit in federal court, alleging that the Veterans Home failed to follow COVID-19 protocol and violated the Constitutional right of the residents to “conditions of reasonable care and safety” established by the 14th Amendment.
The lawsuit reads in part, “This class-action is brought because defendant NYS-VH patently grossly failed to be a steward of the well-being of our nation’s and state’s veterans, by failing to timely act to protect their veterans/residents from exposure to a deadly COVID-19 outbreak in their facility.” The complaint also accuses the facility of hiding that their relatives had gotten COVID-19 until after they had died.
The lawsuit also claims that the Veterans Home’s “actions and inactions, including their delayed response to properly monitor staff, students, companions, aides and visitors to their facility, precipitated one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in all the State of New York.”
Before the pandemic, according to the lawsuit, the Veterans Home had been cited for a failure to “provide and implement an infection prevention and control program and not ensuring that proper hand hygiene practices were performed during tracheostomy care” as well as failing to “assess their residents when there are significant changes in condition.”
In addition to this, the lawsuit also mentions that the facility had 87 complaints filed against it and has been cited for 16 violations of public and safety health codes between 2019 and 2023.
According to The City, in 2020 bodies were being held inside of the facility and staff members were assigned to float between other units, which may have allowed the virus to spread further. The outlet also reported that patients who had the virus were allowed to stay in rooms with patients who didn’t have it. The prevailing thought from leaders of the facility, according to an employee of the facility, was that the deaths were unavoidable.
An employee told The City, “They left them in the room with the ones that were not [positive] because their thought was, ‘Well, they’re all going to get it anyway.”
New York State Senator Leroy Comrie said that staff at the facility sent his office complaints that alleged mismanagement was “rampant” at the facility. Comrie also told the Post, “Since this whole thing started, there have been problems with supply, delivery and maintenance and even acquisition of proper PPE.”
However, a Health Department official explained that the facility “continues to receive, manage and use a supply of PPE items in an ongoing effort to combat the pandemic, stay prepared for any future developments and abide by state and federal regulations governing PPE supply requirements.”
The families who filed the lawsuit, including the families of Robert A. Loria and James Hutcherson, allege that facility workers failed to bring those who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 to a hospital for treatment.
As compensation, the families seek unspecified damages and the cost of attorney fees.
Staff members told The City that the deaths of the residents affected them deeply, with one employee remarking, “These were not just residents. We knew these residents—they were like family.”