Ad­min­is­tra­tor points to El­li­cott Cen­ter im­prove­ments

The Buffalo News - - IN­SIDE WEST­ERN NEW YORK’S NURS­ING HOMES -

A lack of reg­is­tered nurses at El­li­cott Cen­ter was one of the con­cerns Cata­lano said she raised with El­li­cott Cen­ter’s ad­min­is­tra­tor at the time. She said the fa­cil­ity was fre­quently with­out an RN at night.

Mark Lazar, who be­came the home’s ad­min­is­tra­tor months af­ter Cata­lano quit, told The News there are now reg­is­tered nurses on every shift at El­li­cott Cen­ter. He said that was one of his pri­or­i­ties when he took over as ad­min­is­tra­tor in De­cem­ber 2017, more than a year af­ter Sally Keller lost her eye.

In his time as ad­min­is­tra­tor, he has hired 11 reg­is­tered nurses, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters Health Care, the New York City com­pany that over­sees the fa­cil­ity’s op­er­a­tions.

New York State does not re­quire nurs­ing homes to meet min­i­mum staffing ra­tios for nurs­ing staff and res­i­dents.

Staffing at El­li­cott Cen­ter was rated in Oc­to­ber at three stars, or “av­er­age.”

But the reg­is­tered nurses spend less time per day with res­i­dents there than they do at nurs­ing homes across the state. At El­li­cott Cen­ter, RNs spent on av­er­age 30 min­utes a day with each res­i­dent; the statewide av­er­age is 42 min­utes.

Not enough re­sources

Cata­lano be­gan work­ing at El­li­cott Cen­ter in Fe­bru­ary 2017. Be­fore then, Cata­lano said she worked at sev­eral nurs­ing homes – first as a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing aide and later as a reg­is­tered nurse, af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 2004 from Tro­caire Col­lege.

“The first time I walked into a nurs­ing home in 1993 and looked at the el­derly res­i­dents, I knew that was the ca­reer for me,” the 46-year-old Or­chard Park res­i­dent said.

But as time went on, Cata­lano says she came to re­al­ize the chal­lenges caused by short staffing and lack of sup­plies were be­yond her con­trol.

At El­li­cott Cen­ter, she said she fre­quently com­plained to the ad­min­is­tra­tion that there were not enough re­sources to pro­vide qual­ity care.

“They’d apol­o­gize and say things will get bet­ter. I heard that all the time,” Cata­lano said.

Short­ages

A lack of hand tow­els and sheets to clean res­i­dents and change bed­ding, she said, was among the most up­set­ting of the short­ages.

“I’d have staff tell me, ‘Hey, I’m out of linens. How am I sup­posed to do my job?’ The laun­dry staff was given quo­tas, a count of how many linens to place on carts go­ing up to the floors. But some­times it takes more than one wash­cloth to wash a res­i­dent,” she said.

Nurs­ing aides, ac­cord­ing to Cata­lano, would hide clean tow­els and sheets in the draw­ers of res­i­dents’ rooms to make sure they could prop­erly care for res­i­dents.

“Man­age­ment knew there was a short­age of linen and we’d have to make ‘linen sweeps’ to find the linens aides had hid­den,” Cata­lano said.

Cata­lano said low staffing lev­els and ab­sen­teeism at the El­li­cott Cen­ter of­ten forced her and other man­agers to help the kitchen staff fill food trays for res­i­dents, but some­times the food was not de­liv­ered to the res­i­dents’ rooms.

“We also had nour­ish­ment trays that were sup­posed to be taken at night to the rooms of di­a­bet­ics and those who were mal­nour­ished and needed the calo­ries,” Cata­lano said. “In the morn­ing when I’d come in, the trays were still sit­ting at the nurs­ing sta­tions.”

She says that when she ques­tioned the CNAs, the same ex­pla­na­tion was re­peat­edly given: “We were too short-staffed. We didn’t have the time.”

Her at­tempts to make sure the trays were de­liv­ered in­cluded hold­ing su­per­vi­sors ac­count­able, but they too cited short staffing.

Some em­ploy­ees, she said, were over­worked, but oth­ers failed to grasp the need to work as a team. Low pay for CNAs, of­ten just above min­i­mum wage, was part of the prob­lem, Cata­lano said.

Im­prove­ments made

Lazar, the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tor, says ser­vices have im­proved since he has taken over be­cause he has the fi­nan­cial sup­port of the own­ers.

The El­li­cott Cen­ter is op­er­ated by Water­front Op­er­a­tions As­so­ci­ates LLC, a com­pany owned by Ken­neth Rozen­berg and Jef­frey Sick­lick, who are ex­ec­u­tives at Cen­ters Health Care.

A Cen­ters spokesman is­sued a state­ment de­fend­ing op­er­a­tions at El­li­cott: “We are con­fi­dent that any con­cerns that were raised by for­mer em­ploy­ees have been thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated and ad­dressed as needed. The lead­er­ship and front line staff at El­li­cott ... are all ded­i­cated and car­ing in­di­vid­u­als.

“We are proud of the staff and the care they pro­vide to our res­i­dents. We wel­come the com­mu­nity to come tour and see first­hand the wel­com­ing staff, the com­pre­hen­sive ren­o­va­tions, and the new in­no­va­tive, state-of-the-art ther­apy gym. We take our res­i­dents’ care very se­ri­ously and ad­dress all con­cerns, whether raised by staff or res­i­dents, with the ut­most ur­gency.”

Cata­lano says she has no way of know­ing if con­di­tions have im­proved since she left in early July 2017, but she says she is up­set at what hap­pened to Keller.

“I’m sad­dened by the fact that this woman lost her eye in what could have been eas­ily pre­ventable,” Cata­lano said.

Since the sum­mer of 2017, she said she has not worked in a nurs­ing home. Cata­lano has in­stead stayed home rais­ing her teenage daugh­ter.

“The good get tired of no changes be­ing made and say, ‘Why stay?’ That was me.”

Derek Gee/News file photo

Mark Lazar, ad­min­is­tra­tor at El­li­cott Cen­ter, says there are now reg­is­tered nurses on every shift at the nurs­ing home and that ser­vices have im­proved un­der own­ers Ken­neth Rozengerg and Jef­frey Sick­lick of Cen­ters Health Care.

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