ALBION — Cars whizzed down Route 31 in Albion, honking their horns at a group of people standing across from The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center.
The protesters were holding signs supporting the staff and residents inside, as they endure COVID-19’s brutal impact.
Since the pandemic started, employees have left one by one, saying The Villages sent nurses down halls without PPE and forced workers to reuse gowns and masks.
Now there is only one aide for two units and one aide at night for the entire building, they alleged.
Katie Bourke, who worked for The Villages for four years before quitting just before Easter Sunday, said the only reason she left was because of the administration — she had stayed as long as she did for the residents. She said in addition to not providing workers with proper PPE, the administration would try to force employees to come in for work, even if they had a fever.
“We are very upset with administration, especially the director of nursing,” said Ondrea Pate, who used to work for The Villages three years ago and whose mother passed away to COVID-19 after contracting it at the nursing home.
Pate said her mother was admitted as a rehab patient, and when they came to pick her up to go home, the director of nursing informed them she had been exposed. When Pate tried to learn just exactly how her mother had been exposed, no information was forthcoming.
“Now we’re left trying to figure out if we’re taking our mother home now,” Pate said, before learning her mother had also been tested. “So she comes back and she says the test is negative. So we decide we’ll take her home, we’ll quarantine (my mother and my father); like (there was no) heads up.”
That’s when Pate’s mother told her husband that her roommate had COVID-19, and after three days Pate’s mother developed a fever. She went to United Memorial Medical Center and tested positive for COVID-19. She was sent to Orchard Manor in Medina, where she died.
“(The Villages of Orleans) killed my mother out of pure irresponsibility,” Pate said, adding they should have separated people who have been tested into a different room.
Six hours after taking her home, Pate said, they read there were 27 patients with COVID-19 inside the nursing home.
“It was a completely needless, needless death,” she said. “And it’s frustrating to hear anybody say this is the vulnerable population, because my mother, while sick, was coming back into the community. She shouldn’t have, none of it should have happened.”
Pate said the protestors know the staff inside are doing the best they can, and they’ve been trying hard to keep it from becoming political. She said the state attorney general and Orleans County Sheriff’s Department have been phenomenal, and they’ve attempted to contact anyone they could get to listen.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, and State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, have helped bring attention to the issue. Corporate Compliance, a third-party agency which tries to mediate between both sides, has been working to get in contact with people.
Organizing the protest took a couple weeks, and Dan Conrad, of Albion, said at no point did the organizers sound negative about it as they wanted to show love to the residents and staff inside. Conrad’s mother was a LPN at the facility who contracted COVID and was on a ventilator for nine days, though she’s now back home recovering.
He said while all of this is hard, having the community support makes it easier.
“Our intention is we hope the nursing home stays open, it does not close, because we do need somewhere for our seniors and healthcare workers to have jobs,” Conrad said. “But we need new administration and need new people running the facility, it’s what’s desperately needed.”
The Daily News tried to reach out to the administration of The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehab for comment, but nobody picked up the phone and a message said the voicemail was full.