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Silent vigil held to honor those lost at nursing homes amid pandemic

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Last week, nurses and nursing assistants participated in silent vigils outside of the Rockville Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the Grand Pavilion for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Rockville Centre as a way to pay respect for the patients and colleagues who lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. The local event coincided with vigils taking place across the state outside of nursing homes as a way to also recognize the extra burden employees have faced since the onset of the pandemic.

“Every time someone dies, you lose a little part of yourself,” Felicia Glasgow, a nurse at The Grand Pavilion said. “I don’t think the management realizes what we go through.”

Glasgow, 65, a licensed practical nurse, has worked at The Grand Pavilion in Rockville Centre for 30 years and has been working in the facility’s Covid unit since it was created in March. The outbreak, she said, has put strain on the staff, and has made it particularly hard to tend to her long-term patients, many of whom are chronically ill and need full-time care.

“It’s one thing to take care of them under normal circumstances,” Glasgow said. “It’s another thing in a time of Covid.”

She works the night shift and has had to work extra hours during the pandemic, partly because they are overloaded with patients and partly because they are understaffed. Glasgow, who lives in Roosevelt, said that she has even worked on her days off because no one else was available. She does this, she said, because she is dedicated to her patients.

The patients, she said, become like family. “It’s sad to know we are doing everything we are supposed to do, giving the proper care, and we still lose them,” Glasgow said. “And we’re not being recognized for it.”

She said she wants the corporate managers to recognize its employees’ worth.

For five weeks, the nurses were getting an extra $2 per hour in hazard pay for their work during the pandemic. Then, the payments suddenly disappeared.

“I did not see that hazard pay for a month, and then it only lasted five weeks,” Jessica Lizana said. “We are face to face with these patients every day, we still have a quarantine unit and we still have seniors testing positive.”

Lizana has worked at The Grand Pavilion since last September, and said she has also been concerned about the lack of protective equipment available to staff. Some of the patients, she said, get physical with nurses, spitting on them or scratching them. They do not have extra gowns or protection and are putting themselves and other patients at risk.

“It’s scary knowing I could have Covid on me and going to another resident’s room and spread it,” Lizana said. “These people in long term care are like family, and I see them more than I see my own family. I want to give them the best care, but I don’t know if I’m doing that. It’s so upsetting because we care…we go above and beyond because we love them.”

Lizana and Glasgow are members of the health care workers union1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, which held 36 vigils across New York on May 21.

For both women, the job has become physically and emotionally draining.

“I’m so tired, my body is shaking,” Glasgow said. “It takes a toll after awhile.”

Still, she said, she is attached to her patients and is committed to their care.

“I do this because I’m dedicated to the profession,” Glasgow said. “I think more about my patients than I do about myself.”

Attending the silent vigil, she said, “is a way of remembering our residents, giving them honor. We did the best we could for our residents and patients. You get to know the residents and they get to know you. They become like family, and every loss takes a piece of you."