Covid-19 outbreak at Tonawanda nursing home has led to 25 deaths – Buffalo News

Mary M. Barber said she expects her 102-year-old mother to soon become part of the McAuley Residence’s grim statistic: 25 of the nursing home’s residents have died from Covid-19.

The nursing home in the Town of Tonawanda has had an outbreak of the virus, but its magnitude has gone unreported until now because most of the residents who died were first transferred to a special nursing home in Orchard Park for Covid-19 patients.

Their deaths are not linked to McAuley Residence in a daily State Health Department report that identifies the number of Covid-19 fatalities at each of the state’s more than 600 nursing homes.

The Buffalo News obtained texts from Catholic Health, which operates McAuley Residence, on Friday that showed:

  • 25 McAuley Residence patients had died from Covid-19.
  • 64 of the residents there have tested positive and been transferred.
  • 18 staff members at McAuley Residence have tested positive.
  • The first positive test of a resident happened April 25.

Catholic Health spokeswoman JoAnn Cavanaugh confirmed that the statistics are accurate.

“Our hearts are with our residents, their families, and our staff at McAuley Residence. At the end of April, we tested all the residents and staff in the building for Covid-19, including those who were asymptomatic, and found many who tested positive,” Cavanaugh said in a statement to The News.

Barber is worried that her mother, Doris M. Mathias, will join the list of fatalities within hours, or days.

Her mother is now at the Covid-19 treatment facility at St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga.

But Barber said she is still receiving daily text message updates on Covid-19 at McAuley. One text said the 18 staff members who tested positive “are not in the building at this time.”

A licensed practical nurse from the facility, Joan Neudecker, died May 9 in Kenmore Mercy Hospital of Covid-19. She is the first nursing home worker in Erie County known to have died with the virus.

The state Health Department has reported only one coronavirus-related death at the McAuley Residence.

That apparently is a function of the transfers of Covid-19 residents to the St. Joseph Post-Acute Care Center, the temporary nursing home for Covid-19 patients in Orchard Park. That facility operates under Father Baker Manor nursing home’s license.

The state reported 46 Covid-19 deaths at Father Baker Manor as of Thursday.

“Because the St. Joseph Post-Acute Center was designed to provide the best care for this patient population, who do not require or through their wishes do not want hospital care, most of the residents who tested positive were transferred to this site,” Cavanaugh said. “Once patients recover and test negative, they will return to McAuley Residence. One resident returned to the facility today.”

McAuley Residence is licensed for 160 beds and has a “much above average” overall five-star rating from the federal government.

Daughter details mother’s decline

Mathias entered the McAuley Residence in November 2018. Her daughter said she had visited her mother, a long-time Town of Tonawanda resident, every day until March 12, a day before the state imposed a ban on visitors to nursing homes to try to stop the spread of the virus.

Barber said Mathias tested positive for the virus on May 6 and on the same day was transferred to St. Joseph Post-Acute Care Center.

Last Saturday, Barber said she received a call from the facility that her mother was experiencing labored breathing and needed to be transferred to the St. Joseph Campus hospital.

“I agreed to have her transferred and was told she had a urinary tract infection that had gone into her blood,” Barber said Friday. “This morning I received a call that they had done everything that they can and that her breathing had become worse and at this point they wanted my approval to start comfort measures.”

Barber said she agreed to the request.

“I haven’t seen my mother since March 12 because of the visiting ban,” Barber said. “Basically they said we are waiting for her to die a natural death.”

She says it is horrible to be waiting for the call that will inform her of her mother’s death.

Barber said she wants to know how 64 residents in long-term care at McAuley tested positive and 25 died.

“It is just staggering,” Barber said. “I can’t figure out how this happened when the facility said they are doing everything they can, but here we are.”

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