Dozens of resident at The Harlem Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation died from Covid-19 but the facility failed to report them. The nursing home was slapped with violations from the NY Health Department for hiding the deaths of 25 residents.
The facility was reported by a neighbor who recorded a video showing at least 20 bodies in black bags being transported out of the nursing home and piled into trucks. At the time, the nursing home had only reported 5 deaths. It is is now facing a fine for failing to protect its residents and under-reporting the number of deaths.
While nursing homes as well as hospitals are immune from most neglect lawsuits during the pandemic, they are legally obligated to disclose the number of residents who died from the coronavirus. According to an executive order that was released by Andrew Cuomo on April 17, nursing homes have to report coronavirus deaths to family members within 24h. Nursing homes that don’t comply can be fined $2,000 per undisclosed death and risk the revocation of their license as well as criminal prosecution.
In New York, many have complained about facilities under-reporting deaths and sending their patients to hospitals without informing their families. While the Harlem nursing home is one of the first to be sanctioned, two other facilities were cited by the NY Health Department. The Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, Bronx was also visited by the Health Department inspectors after the staff working there raised the alarm. The staff said at least 119 residents died from Covid-19 at the facility when only 20 were reported to the State.
Northern Manhattan Rehabilitation and Nursing Center located in Harlem was also recently cited by the New York Health Department for undereporting the number of its residents who died from the deadly virus.
So far the NY Health Inspectors have made 278 unannounced visits to nursing homes and 369 to adult care facilities.
New York and many other States has granted some form of legal protection to nursing homes during the pandemic. While this immunity does not cover willful or criminal misconduct or gross negligence committed by nursing homes, it would most likely cover harm that arose from a shortage in staffing or protective equipment.