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Some push back against Lamont’s plan to house coronavirus patients in senior living facilities

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FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont’s proposed plan to convert five private nursing homes into facilities that will house either all COVID-19 positive or all COVID-19 negative patients has come up against stiff resistance from community leaders, patients, families and staff.

At the state’s daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Department of Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell said that while she understands families’ concerns, the state is focused on saving lives.

Nursing homes News 8 spoke with said, so are they.

The plan was released late Wednesday and outlined a strategy to make five nursing homes “conversion” facilities, meaning they would house either all positive COVID patients or all negative patients.

RELATED: 57 nursing homes in CT have residents testing positive for coronavirus

But four of the five tell News 8 in no uncertain terms that they are not on board at this time.

David Skoczulek with iCare Health Network said iCare, which runs two homes that appeared on the governer’s list—Touchpoint at Farmington and Touchpoint at Bloomfield—, never agreed to the state’s plan.

“We’re not sure how we made it on the list,” said Skoczulek, “We never had any intention of using one of our care centers to be converted to a COVID facility. The idea and the concept of moving [so] many patients are really, really daunting and has its own set of risks.”

Skoczulek said he has 15 total patients among 1,600 that have tested positive within 11 facilities.

Athena Healthcare Systems, which runs the Evergreen Center in Stafford Springs and another in Sharon, said it never agreed for either nursing home to be a conversion center—though they were on the state’s list as well.

Evergreen was one of the first facilities in the state to have patients die as a result of COVID-19.

In a Facebook post, the Town of Stafford made it abundantly clear that they, too, are not on board, writing, “We as the Board of Selectmen are very concerned, along with the families of the current residents of the Evergreen Health Care Center, regarding the removal of patients to other locations and designating Evergreen as a COVID-19 care facility…This is their home! We assure you that we DO NOT support this action…”

Skoczulek said he heard similar complaints from family, patients and his own workers. He said the risk of moving healthy residents is too great for both the patients or staff members.

Instead, he is optimistic about the governer’s plan to use currently empty buildings or nursing homes to house COVID-19 patients.

“We want to make sure the staff know we have their backs and making a drastic decision like that at this time didn’t feel right and wasn’t the right thing to do,” he said.

Coleman-Mitchell said plans for the homes are fluid. She did not say if the state will compel the nursing homes to comply.

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