By PJ Ferguson and Matthew Saari

A recently terminated employee of the Granville Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing alleges staff neglect their elderly residents.

Melanie Merithew, who worked at the center for three weeks, said during that time an elderly woman was left to soak in her own urine for five hours.

“I personally witnessed her for four hours,” Merithew said. “Her pajamas were actually wet; she was in tears telling me about it.”

Merithew’s brief tenure at the senior center began in early April following a search for employment. Normally a hairdresser, Merithew was forced to seek other employment after her profession was deemed non-essential by the state and she shuttered her doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her mother, who works in the center’s kitchen, was able to secure an interview for a position in the activities department.

“She got me a temporary job there until COVID is over,” Merithew said.

On Wednesday, April 22, two weeks after her start date, Merithew said, is when the incident in question occurred. Around noon that day, the elderly woman notified Merithew she needed to be changed after soiling herself. Not being a CNA, Merithew said she was not authorized to move or change the residents so she said she would seek someone out to do so.

She reported the elderly woman’s request to the center’s “social service worker,” Merithew said, and was told it would be followed up on.

“She apparently never did,” Merithew said. “That was the beginning of the end.”

At 4 p.m., Merithew said, her shift was over and she was sure the woman would be taken care of.

The next day, Thursday, April 23, the resident informed Merithew she was left alone for five hours before anyone came to change her.

When she attempted to follow up on the resident’s claim, Merithew said center staff closed ranks.

“I was then bounced from one person to the next person,” she said. “It was very clear they weren’t going to do anything.”

Merithew’s employment came to an end Monday, April 27 after an emotional scene in the hallway after which she left before her shift’s conclusion.

“If she was your grandmother you would want her changed,” Merithew said.

Twenty minutes later she received a phone call from center administrator “Cindy,” advising her employment had been terminated because she “raised her voice.”

Not long after Merithew’s termination, she posted her plight on Facebook. The social media post quickly went viral, with it being shared more than 1,000 times and garnering 773 reactions and 82 comments.

Among the comments were those with similar anecdotes, like James Dieckert, a Whitehall resident, who corroborated Merithew’s claims of some of the incidents occurring at the center.

He said that his 88-year-old wheelchair-bound father was left sitting in his own excrement for extended periods of time on multiple occasions during his eight-day stay at the home.

During his visits, Dieckert said, he would see staff on their cell phones, ignoring call bells that were allegedly going off for 30 minutes or more.

“This is by the far the worst,” said Dieckert, whose father has been a resident of multiple different nursing homes.

The final straw came when he was called the morning of the eighth day, with his father complaining that no one answered his call bell for over 90 minutes as he sat in his own waste.

“I told them I wanted him out of there today,” Dieckert recalled, “This is completely ridiculous, it’s degrading.”

Furthermore, a current employee, who wished to remain anonymous, backed up the claims of staff cell phone usage and elder neglect, saying the center has “gone downhill.”

“A lot of things get covered up or not paid attention to,” the employee said, “it’s changed.”

They described an incident where a woman spent five hours in her own waste, “begging to be changed” and was wheeled down to a room and left there.

“Why it’s happening, I don’t know,” they said, “The people they are hiring don’t care and they say they’re short staffed.”

Concerns of the center’s beds having no guard rails was also a common complaint of those sharing their stories.

“I have found people on the floor,” said the anonymous employee.

Though according to Granville Center’s spokesperson Jeff Jacomowitz, the use of bed rails is not common in these types of facilities.

“Unlike hospitals who use bed rails, many skilled nursing facilities do not due to the fact of documented reports of the dangers of suffocation when a senior lodges themselves between the mattress and the rail,” wrote Jacomowitz in response to the criticism, “For this matter of safety purposes, Granville Center is one of many facilities to use side pillows and a contour mattress to prevent a patient from falling out of bed.”

Additionally, the Center denies all of the allegations unequivocally.

“Allegations being made by certain former employees, current employees and family members regarding different areas of neglect, such as ignoring of call bells, some staff on their cell phones, plus the safety and the daily care of the residents and their well-being are blatantly untrue and unfounded,” wrote Jacomowitz. “Granville Center will not tolerate any falsehoods made by former or current disgruntled employees and families who have questions and concerns should adhere to our Open-Door policy whereby families should contact the facility’s Administrator, Assistant Administrator, Director of Nursing or Assistant Director of Nursing.  As per the Director of Nursing and the facility’s Administrator, the clinical department at Granville Center keeps a complete log of all of the residents on a routine basis and there are no records of these types of negligence by the nursing staff.”

An email to the state Department of Health, which oversees elder care facilities, requesting whether any complaints had been filed against Granville Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing went unanswered.

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