Waterford nursing home evacuated over asbestos concerns

Mar. 10—WATERFORD — State health officials on Thursday ordered the evacuation of 69 residents of Greentree Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Waterford due to the possibility of asbestos exposure during renovations.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health, in a statement on Friday, said it learned on Thursday that the facility had begun renovating two of its nursing units without first testing for asbestos or notifying DPH as required by law.

DPH, in consultation with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, issued an “immediate jeopardy,” notification to Greentree, an indication that conditions at the facility could cause harm and needs to be corrected immediately.

“DPH officials were on site throughout the night “to ensure the safe transfer of the residents which was completed early Friday morning,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said in a statement.

“DPH has determined that the condition of both units poses an imminent danger to the health, safety and welfare of the residents there, and all work has been halted,” he added.

The North Center Nursing Unit, South Center Nursing Unit, and the South Shore Nursing Unit had flooring removed which was not tested for asbestos prior to removal, DPH said. The North Star Unit remained intact pending asbestos testing following a DPH inspection.

Contractors cannot not start any renovations where asbestos is present and may be disturbed by the renovation without providing an asbestos abatement notification to DPH.

It is not yet clear if the material removed during the renovations contained asbestos. The DPH has ordered that all materials be tested. A representative from Greentree did not return calls seeking comment on Thursday and Friday.

John W. “Bill” Sheehan, 81, of Waterford, whose wife Joyce is a resident at Greentree and suffers from dementia, said he noticed the renovations had been ongoing for several days with visitors walking around the workers as they tore up floors.

Sheehan said he received a text message at 6:34 pm on Thursday from Greentree that asbestos had been discovered. His wife was moved overnight to Mystic Healthcare, a facility managed by Ryders Health Management, the same company that manages Greentree.

He’s already been to visit his wife and said “she’s fine, as fine as she can be,” if not a bit confused. He’s not typically his wife’s most important visitor, however. The highlight of Joyce’s days were visits from her Shih Tzu named Chaos, which Sheehan said was her one constant link to reality.

Sheehan said that while he tends to be laid back he suspects there are others at Greentree, residents and family members, who are more excitable and might be more upset about the situation.

It is unclear how Greentree decided on where residents were moved but Sheehan said he was initially asked where he wanted his wife to go. His wife was not moved to his top two picks. The wife of another resident said her husband was moved to a facility in Old Saybrook.

A DPH spokesman said it is the facility’s responsibility to activate its “mutual aid” program and whenever possible to offer families a choice of facilities where their relative can be transferred. DPH and a representative from the Connecticut State Long Term Care Ombudsman remains at the nursing home to advocate for patients and families and help answer questions, DPH said.

In addition to evacuating residents from the facility, DPH issued a long list of orders to Greentree management such as immediately covering the concrete floor on the South Center Nursing Unit, closing the corridor doors between the North Center Nursing Unit and North Star Nursing Unit and posting signs on the doors that state “Do Not Open, Emergency Use Only”.

The facility is also required to conduct asbestos testing of all flooring materials throughout the building and in the dumpster, install negative air scrubbing machines, stop new admissions and provide DPH with a full renovation plan for the facility. Work cannot be resumed until a work plan is submitted to DPH and is approved.

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