SCHENECTADY — Keene Manmohan hasn’t seen his comatose mother since the beginning of the pandemic.
And he’s not sure when he’ll be able to.
Despite nursing homes and adult care facilities reopening for visitation in July, Manmohan is among those who are continuing to experience trouble visiting their loved ones due to logistical challenges associated with getting tested and scheduling visits.
All visitors to adult care facilities in New York state must present verified evidence that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the past seven days.
Manmohan, 35, tested negative earlier this month but was unable to schedule an appointment within the statutory window to visit his 67-year-old mother at Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Niskayuna.
Since his employer’s health insurance didn’t deem the test medically necessary, he’s worried over incurring unknown costs when looking for other testing options, as well as a headache in dealing with scheduling.
“This is ridiculous,” Manmohan said.
Prior to the pandemic, Manmohan visited his mother daily, who has been in a coma since experiencing a medical event while on vacation to Trinidad three years ago.
Families are suffering, he said.
“This is not our fault.”
Manmohan was tested at the county-run location at SUNY Schenectady on Oct. 8 and received a negative result Oct. 13.
Yet he wasn’t able to get an appointment to visit his mother until Wednesday — after the window expired, leading him on a goose chase for another test, with costs being a driving concern.
Pathways said they’re simply following state Department of Health directives.
“Overall, most families have been appreciative that visitations have resumed,” said Pathways spokesman William Wohltjen.
Nursing homes in New York that have been without COVID-19 for at least 14 days are allowed to resume limited visitations
Manmohan said he doesn’t have a problem with the state regulations, but rather the facility was unable to accommodate a visit within the seven-day window.
Logistics for scheduling visits can be complex, officials acknowledged.
No more than 10 percent of a facility’s residents can receive visitors per day, and some residents require licensed professionals to oversee the visits in case something happens.
So that means facilities have to engage in a delicate balancing act when it comes to handling visitation — and that requires a certain level of planning ahead of time from family members.
Visitors should schedule visits before they know the results so if they come back positive, the home can remove them from the schedule.
“We want people to schedule visits immediately after they’re tested,” said administrator Jeffry Ruso. “So when they get their results, they’re ready to come in.”
Manmohan has two additional visits scheduled for later this month.
Now he has to secure another test.
Testing is free at state-run sites — including at the University at Albany location.
“If New Yorkers go to a test site run by New York state, there is never any charge for a test,” said Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health.
But at sites run by local governments, medical facilities or private companies, patrons can incur associated costs.
The Schenectady County-run community testing sites, which rotate around the city based on need, bill back insurance companies for the $80 cost.
Yet the county will absorb the costs even if not reimbursed by the insurance company, and said it’s committed to using federal and other pandemic-related funding to ensure it can offer “cost-free” community testing to residents.
“Widely available testing is key to minimizing community spread of COVID-19,” said Schenectady County Legislator Gary Hughes. “Schenectady County has made it a priority to eliminate as many barriers to testing as possible by offering no-cost community testing twice a week at convenient locations, including those in underserved neighborhoods, that don’t require appointments. Anyone that shows up can receive a test.”
Testing continues on Thursday at SUNY Schenectady.
Manmohan said navigating the often-confusing landscape can be difficult.
“This is depressing for family members,” he said.
Stephen B. Hanse, president and CEO of New York State Center for Assisted Living, couldn’t point to emerging trends that echoed Manmohan’s situation.
But he acknowledged private commercial insurance carriers are not picking up the costs for tests that aren’t deemed medically necessary, “which is really frustrating.”
The organization last week called on the state to further re-evaluate its current testing and visitation rules to bring them more in line with federal regulations.
That includes requiring nursing home visitors to present a negative COVID-19 test only in counties with medium or high positivity rates, which begins at 5 percent.
The infection rate in Schenectady County was 0.7 percent on Monday, the last day for which data is available.