After numerous attempts to get a Bayside nursing home to reverse what it calls “unauthorized policies,” the union representing its workers has turned to the public for support.
The union also claims that efforts to get the home to bargain for a fair contract have gone unanswered.
UFCW Local 342 has accused Ozanam Hall Nursing Home of Queens of resident neglect, disrespect of workers, having an uncaring management team and other indiscretions. The workers have been distributing leaflets to visitors at the home, as well as throughout the surrounding community, to advise them of the conditions they say residents face.
In a prepared statement, the union’s executive director Kelly Egan said, “The understaffing has caused residents to miss feeding times, go long periods without bathing, live in unsanitary room conditions and lie uncomfortably in soiled clothing for an extended time, among many other unspeakable horrors.”
According to Kate Meckler, the union’s director of communications, “The cutbacks vary from department to department.”
Among those affected in the union are certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and the housekeeping, dietary, service, maintenance, patient activities and clerical staff departments.
Meckler said approximately 435 union workers are employed at the facility. Their previous contract expired in 2010. According to a statement from the union, no new agreement has been made in part because the home claims it is in financial distress.
“In labor negotiations, when a company says they do not have funds, it gives the union the opportunity to have an accountant come in and examine the finances,” Meckler said. “The union auditor uncovered that the home has plenty of liquid money available in reserve accounts.”
She said that the auditor was “forced to sign a confidentiality report” regarding specifics of the home’s financial situation. “I don’t know why they made him sign an agreement.”
Meckler said the union has notified residents’ families about the concerns. “We’re trying to speak to others in the community and hope their concern will encourage the home to examine what’s happening and make some corrections,” she said.
“We are continuing to bargain with the home,” she said. “We want a fair contract. These workers have to provide for their families with fair wage increases. If this public outreach to the residents’ loved ones, as well as the community, does not force the home to do the right thing, more drastic measures will be taken.”
The 432-bed, 24-hour facility, located at 42-41 201 St. ,was named for Frederic Ozanam, a 17th century lawyer known for his charitable work, and opened in 1971. It specializes in short-term rehabilitation and skilled geriatric care, also offering spiritual care, pain management, and physical, occupational and speech therapy.
The home is administered by the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. Repeated phone calls to administrators at at the home seeking comment on the various accusations were unsuccessful.
But in a press release issued on Monday, Ozanam Hall officials said it understands the employees’ frustration and will continue negotiations with the union. “Ozanam Hall has negotiated in good faith and has also asked the union to recognize the financial crisis and the long-range implications.”
The nursing home blames the financial crisis in nursing homes on decreasing Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. Since 2009, the facility’s Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement has been cut by more than $7 million.
Officials also noted that Ozanam Hall has received a five-star rating by the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is the highest ranking.
Liz Rhoades contributed to this story.