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NYS health commissioner reacts to News10NBC investigation into Sodus nursing home

December 06, 2018 06:23 PM

The commissioner of the New York State Department of Health is responding to our investigation into the care and conditions at Sodus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.  

For the past several months, News10NBC has been exposing the deplorable conditions discovered inside the nursing home.

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Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke has spoken with dozens of patients, family members and employees. She also tracked down the CEO of the company that owns the facility in New York City.

This week she was finally able to catch up with the commissioner of the Department of Health to ask what he and his agency are doing to ensure the safety of those inside.  

On a number of occasions, spokesmen for the Department of Health told News10NBC through statements that the agency is aware of what's going on at Sodus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and they are investigating it, but few other details have been provided.

So, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke went to Albany to speak with Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. 

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke: "Have you seen our reporting? Have you seen some of the videos that have come out from inside?" 

Dr. Howard Zucker: "I've seen your reports and I've been following what you're doing and our entire team has been working on this issue."

Lewke: "What can you tell me about what your inspectors are doing inside that facility to ensure the safety of the patients?"

Dr. Zucker: "First and foremost, the priority is the safety of anyone in nursing homes or anyone in New York and that's what the department is about, that's what we're all about in the entire administration…we are limited in what we can say because of the investigation. So, it's not that we want to push something off, it's just that we don't want to compromise the investigation itself."

Lewke: "As the commissioner, when you see the videos of some of these conditions, what goes through your mind just on a personal level, if that was your family? 

Dr. Zucker: "Well, let me tell you something. I actually have a 99-year-old parent and I understand the challenges, and this is why we're working to move this forward and there is, as you have reported, a new administration within the nursing home team. The management has changed, so this is important. So that's what we do... when there's something that comes up, that there's a concern... we tackle it."

Lewke: "This is such a vulnerable population because so many of the people who are in there don't have family members, friends to look after them while they are patients at a facility like this, that's the state's job."

Dr. Zucker:  "And that's why when we hear about things like this, we tackle them. We have a team to tackle this whole issue."

But keep in mind, Sodus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center has three times the number of health and safety violations compared to the state-wide average.

Those violations were racking up long before News10NBC started investigating, before we heard stories about filthy conditions inside, before we saw video of infected wounds that were not cared for properly and before a local man went to visit his father and found him dead in his bed. 

Lewke: "This facility keeps getting cited, keeps getting cited, keeps getting cited but they're never fined. They've never put on any watch lists. There's nothing that ever happens beyond that."

Dr. Zucker: Two parts. One, as I was saying, there's a new management team there so that's a major step forward and two, I don't want to go into the details about what's fined or not because, again, you don't want to compromise any investigation that's going on."

Lewke: "One thing we've heard consistently is that this facility is understaffed.  Do you think there should be minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes?"

Dr. Zucker: "That's a bigger issue and I, we're looking into all these issues so I don't want to answer that specifically."

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Credits

Jennifer Lewke

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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