FRANKFORD — Two employees have voiced concerns they have been without adequate safety equipment to protect themselves while treating COVID-19 positive residents at the Homestead Rehabilitation and Health Care Center.


Speaking under the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, the Homestead medical employees told the New Jersey Herald that donated personal protective equipment or PPE has gone to the building’s administration, describing it as kept under “lock and key;” and employees are limited on what they have, especially gowns.


The first employee claimed they have sometimes without the appropriate gowns on their shifts, sometimes using what the employee called “hospital gowns,” those used when patients are admitted for care. The first of two employees asserted there has been a shortage of the protected gowns while working on wings with COVID-positive patients. The employee said they knew of PPE donations from Sussex County’s Office of Emergency Management, “Sparta Helps Healthcare Heroes” and other groups and individuals have donated. They asserted when the protective gowns are used, they are only given one during their shift, while they said the typical procedure is to change gowns between each resident they see.


The second employee stated while the facility had adequate gloves and masks, gowns have arrived in “dribs and drabs" as they are working.


The first employee also said another co-worker who posted about PPE on Facebook was told by administration to remove the post, with administrative employees telling the co-worker “we can’t ask for PPE.”


Although employees have asked for donations, including from the group “Sparta Helps Healthcare Heroes,” a grassroots effort that started in Sparta, the first employee said donations are then delivered to the building’s administration office and not properly distributed among employees.


Dovid Glenn, the facility’s administrator, could not be reached for comment on Friday.


According to the Homestead’s profile on New Jersey’s Department of Health website, it is a 128-bed facility, with one of its “listed officers” JCANDL LLC, which also owns Valley View Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Newton. Other officers of the facility, per the state are: PJ&H Holdings, Benjamin Landa, Corp the White Maple, David Rubenstein, Debbie Egert, LLC AM 145 Holdings, Rachel Dachs, Ronald Stern and Uri Lerner.


Contrary to the reports from the two employees however, the facility has continued to post regularly on its Facebook Page about a number of topics, including PPE donations. On April 15, one post credited Newton High School teacher James Hoffman for donating face shields. Another post on April 22, was of a sign on the Homestead property, thanking the healthcare workers at the facility. In a post on April 25, the facility shared photos of its staff members, citing employees in maintenance, laundry, housekeeping, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreation, dietary, speech therapists, the kitchen and administration, thanking all of the departments for their dedication. In those photos, employees are shown in the April 25 post wearing various types of gloves, masks, suits and face shields.


A representative for “Sparta Helps Healthcare Heroes" LeeAnne Pitzer, said regular PPE donations have been made to the Homestead and other facilities. Pitzer said the group, which has a donation and informational website at www.spartahelps.org, has also provided PPE to Andover Subacute I and II, the Homestead, Merry Heart in Succassunna, doctors’ offices and area medical centers. Pitzer said medical and longterm care facilities in need are able to request PPE and supplies.


“There were some reports coming back initially of PPE overall not being distributed properly at some facilities,” Pitzer said, who did not wish to comment further on the topic.


Another member of the group, Melissa Prestipino, a healthcare worker herself, said the idea to assist healthcare facilities with PPE grew after learning of shortages; and called the response “amazing.” Prestipino explained that through the group’s website, employees can confidentially request assistance.


Pitzer asked why it has been necessary for volunteers to step up and “Where is our government?”


At the same time, she and the others who volunteer are glad to help.


“We’ll continue to do this (provide supplies) as long as it’s needed,” Pitzer said.


Statistics from the Homestead


According to statistics provided by the State Department of Health on Friday, the Homestead had 36 cases of COVID-19 to date and seven fatalities. The first of the two employees interviewed said Friday, the most recent information they received, which they furnished to the New Jersey Herald about case counts was on Monday. According to the document, there were 35 residents that had “tested positive symptomatic” and seven that “tested positive asymptomatic,” while three had recovered. The document additionally noted eight fatalities from COVID. That report also stated five staff members had tested positively for COVID and four recovered. None of the staff has, according to that document, died to date from the illness.


Jennifer Jean Miller can also be reached by phone at: 973-383-1230; on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JMillerNJH and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JMillerNJH.