Residents of Cedarhurst Senior Living of Waterloo have had to endure many things during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some believe a recent surcharge implemented at the facility has gone too far.
Residents received a letter dated June 15 informing them of a $5 per day “temporary PPE surcharge” to begin July 15. PPE, or personal protective equipment, includes things like face masks and clothing that protect the user from spreading or becoming exposed to infection or illness.
This charge, according to the letter, is a way for the facility to “offset the unexpected, but vital costs incurred by Cedarhurst to procure and provide PPE.”
“Residents feel adding this $150 (surcharge) is excessive,” said one resident who wished to remain anonymous.
The resident also wanted to clarify that the problem is not with the facility, saying that “(the employees of Cedarhurst of Waterloo) have been working hard to keep residents safe. It is only with the PPE charge that they object.”
The PPE charge has been applied to Cedarhurst communities throughout eight states.
Cedarhurst Director of Marketing and Communications Samantha Prinster said “we understand that some residents and their family members may be frustrated with this PPE surcharge; however, it is a temporary surcharge and a necessary step to continue responsibly operating in the midst of COVID-19.”
In response to concerns, Cedarhurst Senior Living President Josh Stevens wrote a letter to a resident on June 22 explaining the reasons for the charge. In it, he explained the company has currently invested over $2 million “in PPE, other supplies, ‘hero pay’ and additional staffing,” adding he does not expect the surcharge to completely cover additional costs of implementing COVID-19 protocols but that “it will help to defray some of those costs.”
The letter also addressed shared living spaces. Stevens noted that Cedarhurst revised its PPE policy to accommodate shared living spaces. In response to residents’ feedback, “two individuals residing in one unit will be charged $5 per day instead of $10 per day,” Stevens wrote.
Despite the reasons given for this surcharge, the resident at Cedarhurst in Waterloo who spoke with the Republic-Times said residents have received one standard surgical mask unless they ask for more and “additional staff” at the Waterloo location is not being provided.
This resident claimed that the cleaning staff have been reduced from two people to one and that the staff that has been hired has only replaced those who left after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Cedarhurst has had one resident and two employees test positive for COVID-19.
The situation was brought to the attention of Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann.
Hitzemann confirmed he was made aware of the matter and had no comment other than his office is “taking a look to determine who the proper authorities would be to do the investigation” if there was a need for one.
Oak Hill Senior Living and Rehabilitation Center administrator Brian Koontz said the Cedarhurst PPE surcharge was “the first (he has) heard of in a senior living facility,” adding Oak Hill has no plans for a COVID-19 surcharge and the idea “has not even crossed our radar.”
Oak Hill, a county-run facility, has also instituted pay incentives for workers who take extra shifts and has negotiated pay for workers in COVID-19 resident units, if needed. So far, Oak Hill has had multiple staff test positive for coronavirus, but no residents.
“Hopefully we won’t have to enact” the COVID units, Koontz said, “but passing the cost on is not something we’ve considered.”
Unlike Oak Hill, which is eligible for CARES Act compensation, Cedarhurst communities are classified as “assisted living facililties” and have not yet been approved for federal funds.
“Unfortunately, unlike skilled nursing providers, our communities have not received funds from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to cover additional costs resulting from COVID-19,” Stevens stated.