New York state reports that Father Baker Manor has had more residents die of COVID-19 than any nursing home in Western New York. Those who operate Father Baker Manor say there’s a reason why: They’re actually testing their residents for COVID-19, while many other nursing homes are not.
The New York State Department of Health disclosed an additional 1,700 COVID-related nursing home deaths and revealed every nursing home’s number of deaths Tuesday. Father Baker Manor, a 160-bed facility in Orchard Park, has by far the most deaths in Western New York with 31. The local nursing home with the second most, Harris Hill Nursing Facility in Williamsville, has only 20.
Officials with Catholic Health, which operates Father Baker Manor, said their high testing capacity may be why they seemingly have so many more reported deaths. Father Baker Manor tested all 138 of its residents in early April after just a few came down with symptoms, while residents at other nursing homes are likely dying of COVID-19 without ever being tested.
“The number of cases at Father Baker Manor is directly related to what we’ve been doing as far as aggressive testing,” said Dr. Kevin Shiley, Catholic Health director of infectious disease and prevention, during a press briefing Wednesday.
Catholic Health also noted it has stricter criteria for being free of COVID-19, possibly causing them to classify more deaths as COVID-related than other nursing homes.
Catholic Health does not consider residents COVID-free until they’ve tested negative, which could take a month or more, but some nursing homes consider residents COVID-free after 14 days of testing positive, even if they are not re-tested. Therefore some nursing homes may not be classifying COVID-related deaths as COVID-related.
Nursing homes are supposed to be reporting to the state both confirmed and presumed COVID-related deaths. However, Western New York nursing homes have reported almost entirely confirmed deaths, with 162 confirmed deaths and just 13 presumed deaths.
The state’s nursing home death numbers only include residents who actually died inside the nursing home. It does not include residents who died after being taken to a hospital. Therefore the current death numbers for all nursing homes could be much higher.
“There is no excuse for any infection in Catholic Health, we want zero harm, but we also need to ensure that we’re properly informed of the data and the facts,” said Catholic Health President and CEO Mark Sullivan. “I think even (Gov. Andrew Cuomo) is questioning what the data really means because of the inconsistency of testing and diagnosis of past deaths.”
Catholic Health also noted that six of Father Baker Manor's reported deaths actually occurred at the St. Joseph Post-Acute Treatment Center in Orchard Park. The facility treats COVID-19 patients discharged from Catholic Health hospitals, but falls under Father Baker Manor’s license.
Catholic Health tested all 138 Father Baker Manor residents with rapid testing kits around April 4, bringing back 41 positive cases. It also tested all of its 187 staff members bringing back 25 positive cases.
Shiley said the state Department of Health is now crafting some of its new nursing home policies based on what Father Baker Manor did with rapid testing and isolation.
“We made a concerted effort to aggressively search for every single potential case in that facility, and this was by no means considered the standard at that time,” he said. “I think now we’re starting to see other entities catch up to that.”