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Samaritan Keep Home asked state for help during ‘COVID crisis,’ never got it

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 4:20 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - When Watertown’s Samaritan Keep Home had a deadly COVID outbreak in October, it called on New York state for help, but didn’t get it.

In October, there was a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers. Around the same time, Samaritan lost a handful of workers because of a statewide vaccine mandate.

It made for a difficult few weeks working through the outbreak.

“That too creates fatigue for our staff and makes it challenging, but again, they really came through the entire situation and did everything they possibly could,” said Leslie DiStefano, Samaritan spokesperson.

For several weeks in October and November, Samaritan Keep Home experienced what it called “a COVID-19 crisis.”

More than 100 residents became infected; 12 died.

At the time, SKH lost a dozen employees because of a state vaccine mandate. Those 12 employees chose not to get vaccinated and were let go.

We’ve now learned Samaritan asked for help from the state during the outbreak.

No help came.

7 News got no response from Albany Wednesday when we asked: where was the help?

Jefferson County Legislature Chair Scott Gray didn’t know Samaritan asked for help and admits it’s alarming, but not surprising, saying communication with the state is suffering.

“The state has been pretty much unresponsive at this point,” he said.

Gray says if he needs to declare a county-wide state of emergency to get the state’s attention, he’ll do it.

“If they said, ‘If you declare a state of emergency, we’ll provide assistance and assets to you,’ then I will be there tomorrow. Stroke of a pen, and it’ll be done,” he said.

As for Samaritan, DiStefano says if help is offered in the months ahead and they need it, they’ll take it.

“It just echoes that we’re all willing to take help as long as we can get qualified help, and the help is actually available,” she said.

Help could come in the form of the National Guard. This week, Governor Kathy Hochul said she’ll send the help if nursing homes need it.

She announced Wednesday that 60 National Guard medical teams have been deployed to various long-term care facilities across New York.

7 News reached out to the governor’s office to find out where the teams were sent.

Here’s the response:

Thus far, arrangements have been made to deploy teams to Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Albany County; Monroe Community Hospital; A Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Nassau County; Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center in Onondaga County; MVHS Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Oneida; Clinton County Nursing Home; Willow Point Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Broome; The Pines Healthcare & Rehabilitation Centers in Cattaraugus County; and Terrace View Long Term Care Facility in Erie County. As more arrangements are made, we will share more information.

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