Seawright Stands Up for Nursing Home Residents

Mayor de Blasio and Dr. Katz responded to a question regarding Coler at the Mayor’s Briefing on March 16, 2021 regarding Roosevelt Island’s Coler Hospital. Click here to watch the clip. Seawright issued the following statement to respond:

“I am deeply concerned by the joint statement this morning by Mayor de Blasio and Dr. Mitchell Katz responding to a reporter’s question about the Roosevelt Island Medical Center as it relates to Coler Hospital. It was reported by Dr. Mitchell Katz that a different strategy was used to handle Coler’s COVID-19 positive patients separately, including through the use of separate entrances and elevators for staff.

This statement is in contradiction to the reality of what long term residents, and their advocates experienced and witnessed. Since April, we have been sounding the alarm on behalf of residents, and advocates including Friends of Coler and Open Doors, to inform Health + Hospitals and the City’s Administration of reports from residents, and staff within. Residents shared that sick patients were sharing rooms with long-term residents. Additionally, staff and patients raised the issue of PPE shortages. Furthermore, Health + Hospital’s Coler administrators informed us that Roosevelt Island Medical Center (RIMC) staff taking care of COVID-positive patients were sharing entrances and elevators with the regular staff, increasing long term residents' risk of infection. These complaints were numerous as a new 350-bed Roosevelt Island Medical Center came online.

Upon hearing disturbing accounts from Coler residents, we held a Coler Town Hall to demand the creation of a Coler Task Force with the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. At the height of the pandemic, we responded to the pleas from staff inside Coler and delivered lifesaving PPE including masks, gloves, gowns, and 3-D printed face shields created and donated by Cornell Tech students to Coler Hospital on Roosevelt Island to protect its workers and vulnerable patients in partnership with the friends of Coler. I witnessed large refrigerated trucks behind the facility and asked for updates on the deaths as days passed and our concerns grew. The administration has been unresponsive to our pleas for assistance, and information of the number of sick and deceased patients due to COVID-19.

Through action and advocacy, we are sending the message that Nursing Home Lives Matter. I believe the accounts of the long-term residents who shared their lived experiences and watched their friends and loved ones die. Just this weekend, there was a vigil to remember all of the lives lost at Coler. We all gathered to let the residents know that Nursing Home Lives Matter! We are devastated by the loss of precious lives and must do better as a City and State in protecting residents.

Vigilance is key to protect the people who call Coler home. In the Assembly, I am proud to have strongly co-sponsored and voted to pass sweeping nursing home reforms. Importantly, I strongly supported the passage of Assembly Bill 3397 to repeal Article 30-D of the Public Health Law to hold facilities and their administrators accountable for harm to patients and residents. I am supporting the compassionate caregiver bill A11075 to authorize the Department of Health to allow visitation and care by family or caregivers in nursing homes. There must be a call to action to move this bill through committee so these patients can see their caregivers again.

We are also strongly advocating the expansion of Wi-Fi in these facilities to ensure that social connections are fostered through connectivity on social media and other channels in partnership with Cornell Tech.” It is long past time for the City and State to do everything within its vast powers and resources to ensure that nursing home resident lives do matter.