By Georgett Roberts, Carl Campanile and Kate Sheehy May 17, 2020
Out-of-state nurses brought to Manhattan to fight the coronavirus say they found hellish conditions at the city-run adult-care center on Roosevelt Island — from patients with horrific bed sores to feces-smeared walls.
“It was just heartbreaking,” said one of the RNs, a mom of four from Wisconsin who spent about 17 days at the Coler Rehabilitation and Nursing Care Center.
“Patients were in deplorable conditions — very, very dirty, bed sores, terrible odors,’’ the FEMA-contracted nurse, 38, told The Post.
“During my shift, I was placing my initials on the adult diapers. When I would return the next day, the patients would have an additional adult diaper on over the one with my initials on it, saturated urine through both and through the sheets.’’
She and several other nurses, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they tended to coronavirus patients in the facility’s long-term-care section.
The virus-sickened patients were already living at the site when the nurses arrived and not among the COVID-19 sufferers who were ordered sent to the facility by Mayor Bill de Blasio because of a shortage of hospital beds amid the pandemic. The patients brought in from the outside were put in a separate wing of the site that had been closed.
There have been 11 confirmed coronavirus deaths and one presumed fatal case at the center so far, the state Health Department said.
One of the FEMA-contracted nurses, who is from Iowa, described feces-smeared and vermin- and roach-infested areas at the facility — and said she even found cockroaches “on a patient in a vegetative state.
“The conditions at Coler went beyond poor nursing care and crossed clearly into criminal negligence and dependent-adult abuse,’’ the RN told The Post.
The 34-year-old mom said there were “food and feces smeared on patients’ beds, walls, tray tables and curtains,’’ while “basic nursing cares [were] not met, including [patient] turns, diaper changes.’’
The Wisconsin nurse said it would take her “at least three packages [of wipes] for every patient to clean their groin area” because they were so dirty.
“Patients were flinching when doing basic cares, putting their arms up in self-defense due to they were in fear of being hit,” she claimed.
Meanwhile, the “ ‘clean’ med room was infested with mice, and ‘clean’ supplies, medication and food were contaminated with mice feces and urine,” the Iowa nurse added.
“Cleaning services said that because of the pandemic, they can’t keep up. [But] it’s very apparent that this entire place was neglected for cleaning for a very long time, not due to the pandemic.’’
And the nurses said forget about keeping COVID-19 patients properly isolated at the site, which is run by the city’s Health + Hospitals Corp.
“Residents were kept for days in group rooms after found to be COVID-positive,’’ the Iowa nurse said.
The Wisconsin caregiver added, “Immediately following [COVID]-positive patients being removed from a room, they would put a negative COVID patient into that place and did not clean the room that they were removed from.”
The Iowa nurse said a manager for the FEMA-contracted agency she worked for brought their concerns to higher-ups — only to be abruptly taken off the job.
A state DOH rep told The Post that “given nature of the complaints,” an “extensive investigation is under way.”
But HHC denied the nurses’ claims to The Post, saying the facility was last inspected by the state Department of Health in November and “found to be in substantial compliance with federal and state regulations.
“NYC Health + Hospitals provides the highest quality care to our patients, ensuring their health and safety always comes first,’’ it added in a statement.
“Any claims of neglect and abuse are simply false, highly disturbing and do not reflect our standards of care.”
But state Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, whose district includes Roosevelt Island, called the nurses’ reports “outrageous and intolerable.
“The New York state Health Department must investigate and require that these reported conditions be immediately resolved and that patients at risk be transferred if need be to a safe environment,’’ she told The Post in a statement.