State eases up on COVID-19 testing at north country nursing homes

WWNY State eases up on COVID-19 testing at north country nursing homes

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The cost of testing for COVID-19 has been hitting north country hospitals hard. However, those hospitals are getting a break.

Lewis County General Hospital has been paying $49,000 a week to have its residential health care employees tested for COVID-19. But now that bill be cut in half.

"I'm thrilled. It's very appropriate and I am pleased that the administration was willing to take feedback," said CEO Gerlad Cayer.

Governor Cuomo signed an order on Tuesday, saying nursing homes in regions that have reached Phase 2 now are required to test employees once a week, instead of twice.

But Cayer says it will still be tough to pay for testing once a week. COVID-19 has hit the hospital with many challenges.

"In my healthcare career it is the most significant environmental challenge that I have faced and a challenge that has put the most pressure on the financial health of the organization," said Cayer.

Nursing home employees at Samaritan Medical Center facilities will be tested once a week now too, cutting the weekly testing bill of $140,000 in half.

"I think that is safe and I think it is less about the cost and more about what's right for the residents and obviously the state determined this is the right move for the industry at this time," said Leslie DiStefano, Samaritan Medical Center spokesperson.

Both hospitals have also had to furlough employees - 59 of the 230 furloughed at Samaritan are getting back to work.

At Lewis County General, 10 of the 45 furloughed employees are back, with everyone expected to return later this month.

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