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Maid of the Mist ponchos used to protect nursing home workers

The company insists ponchos are merely an option for workers; the workers say the ponchos have been the only option.

WEST SENECA, N.Y. — The McGuire Group, which operates highly-rated nursing homes, confirms that at its Seneca Health Care Center facility in West Seneca, Maid of the Mist ponchos have been used to protect staff now working with COVID-19 patients.

Company spokeswoman Dawn Harsch confirmed the unorthodox practice in a phone conversation Wednesday night.

“They were donated by the Maid of the Mist. They reached out and offered them to us actually, and we were grateful to accept it,” Harsch said.

It is unclear how long these ponchos, designed to keep Niagara Falls tourists from getting soaked, have been in use at the West Seneca nursing home.

During the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) has become increasing difficult to get. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has made numerous public statements expressing frustration over obtaining the now difficult to find gear.

Harsch acknowledges The McGuire Groups has also been hard at work acquiring PPE, but insists its facilities have standard medical protective gear (gowns, gloves, masks, visors and foot-coverings) for the people working in their facilities.

“We have gowns there right now. It wasn’t ever that we used (the ponchos) instead of PPE. There was always PPE there. I asked them specifically. (The ponchos were) was also there in case people wanted to use it,” said Harsch.

Multiple people working inside Seneca Health Care says the only option offered to them was a Maid of the Mist poncho. None of the workers wanted their identities revealed for fear of losing their jobs.

Also, workers say for a time after the first coronavirus residents was confirmed at the nursing home, staffers were sharing ponchos. All of the workers feared this practice could lead to faster spread of the virus among staffers and residents.

Harsch had confirmed earlier on Wednesday there are residents who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus at three McGuire Group properties: Seneca, Garden Gate and Harris Hill. Harsch declined to say how many.

What also angers McGuire Group staffers is the company's planned give-away tomorrow of 1,000 N95 masks to first-responders. Many McGuire workers report difficulty in getting such masks at work.

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