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Emerald South employees preparing to testify about working conditions

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Employees of Emerald South Nursing Home in Buffalo are preparing to take action against their bosses on Monday. 

Emerald South is the same facility where two residents have died since 2016. Now they're being accused of forcing employees to work in an unsafe environment. An attorney representing workers has field a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

On Monday, employees will be giving sworn affidavits, testifying about their working conditions. Among the complaints listed, workers say they were forced to wash soiled laundry in public laundromats.

"That's very unsafe conditions for the employees, the residents, and the citizens of Buffalo," said Cathy Creighton, the attorney representing the workers.

In her filing, Creighton initially said laundry couldn't be done at the facility because there was no running water. Now, she says it's, in fact, because the washing machines aren't operational. She says it's all a sign of who Emerald South's owners really are.

"(They're) sucking as much profit as they can out of the facility, stealing as much money, that's my opinion, as they can out of the facility," Creighton said. 

On Thursday, an Emerald South representative responded to the filing by saying: "Emerald South has been working with the Department of Health for the past couple of months to train and design program safeguards to ensure the safety of the residents. This is an ongoing process and challenging given the current finance circumstances of the facility."

"I don't think it really puts anybody at risk," U.B. professor of medicine John Crane told News 4 about washing soiled laundry from a nursing home, which could contain infectious bacteria, in a public laundromat.

"The main way that washing works is by dislodging the organisms from the clothing and washing them down the drain, not by killing them by heat," he added.

The complaint alleged the facility has also stopped contributing to workers' pensions and changed their health insurance.

On Thursday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz called on the New York State Department of Health to step in and force Emerald South into receivership, under which it would be managed by a different company. He said if it closed, it could have a negative effect on the elderly in Erie County.

"Erie County alone ahs just over 4,000 beds, but we're looking for quality-type beds," said Erie County Commissioner of Senior Services Tim Hogues.

That means the 122-bed Emerald South is home to about three percent of all nursing home beds county-wide.

"It's important that you're active in your loved one's life," Hogues said. "What that means is making sure that you're going to the facility, visiting your loved ones."

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