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Union-Represented Nursing Assistants Battled Coronavirus At Long Island Nursing Home Facility ‘With Most’ Coronavirus Deaths

Published Friday, June 26, 2020
by David M. Schwartz/
Union-Represented Nursing Assistants Battled Coronavirus At Long Island Nursing Home Facility ‘With Most’ Coronavirus Deaths

(NEW HYDE PARK, NEW YORK) - Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) at the nursing home that reported New York’s highest COVID-19 death toll remember how a feisty patient became lifeless after she was moved to a makeshift ward in an auditorium.  They say the nursing home failed to provide adequate protective equipment and recall Workers transporting bodies to a morgue with little assistance or training.  One says she wept in the locker room for residents who’d died, many she had known for years, before she herself contracted COVID-19.

“We ‘built a relationship’ with residents ‘that we lost,’” said Marcia Lumley-Gayle, 57, of Elmont, who has worked for 22 years at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation in New Hyde Park. “We ‘spend more quality time with our residents than we do with our family.’”

On the front lines of the pandemic, CNAs feed, turn and wash nursing home patients for an average salary at Parker Jewish of $41,000 a year, according to their Union.

In interviews with Newsday, Lumley-Gayle and two colleagues offered a view of the sorrows and resentments they suffered inside a 527-bed facility on the Nassau-Queens Border that has reported 82 Coronavirus deaths.

“It's ‘very devastating to us.’  ‘A lot of us have scars.’  ‘I have scars.’  ‘I have pain,’” said Judith Sutherland, 53 of Jamaica, Queens, a 23-year Parker Jewish Employee.

The CNAs say that when the facility equipped Nurses with N95 masks, they left CNAs unprotected amid shortages of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), that security guards searched their bags, looking for stolen wipes or hand sanitizer, and that residents and Staff alike contracted the virus, forcing remaining Workers into struggling to provide care at the height of infections in April.

“When you go in the night, you see the trays at the bedside.  ‘Nobody took the time to feed these residents,’” recalled 10-year Parker Jewish CNA Sandra Hutchinson, 57, of Rosedale, Queens, adding: “You ‘don't have the time to even comfort these residents.’  ‘When you see them, they're just lying there, lifeless, you know, no life in their body.’"

And when the CNAs said they spoke to their supervisors, their bosses just said: "Go to the unit, go to the unit."

Parker Jewish challenged many of the depictions voiced by the three CNAs.

Referring to accounts by Lumley-Gayle, Sutherland and Hutchinson, Vice President of Corporate Outreach and Development Lina Scacco wrote in an e-mailed response to questions: “I know that they are not representative of how our hard-working CNAs feel about Parker and the critical job they are performing during this crisis.”

Lumley-Gayle said she fell ill and was out sick from April 12 until June 12th.

She never had a positive COVID-19 test, but said chest X-rays showed pneumonia, which Medical Staff told her was related to COVID-19.

She worried both about her health and that of her family and feels the nursing home left them exposed with inadequate protective equipment: “We ‘have to go home to our families, we have to secure ourselves.’  ‘I feel like we were thrown in the lion's den without warning and we had to fight our way out of it.’”

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