Families of Van Duyn patients coming together to voice concerns

Members of a "Family Council" are documenting complaints about care

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - First, families with loved ones at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing complained that it was too cold during recent repairs to the heating system.

Now, they're coming together in a united call for action, regarding a range of complaints.

At Believer's Chapel in Syracuse on Monday, a few dozen solemn faces quietly listened as people shared stories.

Jerry Dyer Jr. said he visited the facility and saw "Soiled diapers on the floor behind the door."

Another man expressed concern about possible repercussions if patients report a complaint.

"Nobody should have fear for speaking up for their loved one," pastor Daren Jaime told the man. He helped organize the community meeting.

There were stories of desperation for loved ones.

"It's not getting any better. It is getting worse," said Willa B. Dixon. 

Facing her own health problems, Dixon wasn't able to keep her daughter home for care. She struggles with feelings of guilt. 

Billie Freebern feels the same way. Her mother needs a caretaker. 

"She almost had a nervous breakdown from not having the heat. She was freezing," said Freebern.

With a church as their backdrop, several people shared stories of having their faith in humanity tested.

"There are times when I have gone out to my car after visiting her in the evening and just literally cried, because I am so tired of fighting to get things done," said Walter Stein, who says his mother is a Van Duyn resident.

Stein helped organize a Van Duyn Family Council in October to pursue answers to complaints.

Pastor Darren Duson says he witnessed recent issues with heating, when the system needed repairs.

"When you put your hand on the vent, I mean - cold is an understatement. It was freezing," Duson recalls.

Administrators did offer an answer to heating concerns last week. 

"The system has only been down. It's never been off, unless we were making repairs," said Patrick Deptula, an administrator at the facility. He adds, "There have been no issues with residents being compromised in terms of their health, welfare, and safety."

The families that united Monday dispute that final answer.

"So now we have the community and we're going to start watching what is going on up there and reporting back," said Onondaga County Legislator Monica Williams.

Many are documenting their stories with determination to write a new chapter for loved ones.

"I'm not only fighting for my sister. I'm fighting for all of rest of them because if it has been done to her, it's going to be done to all of them," said Roxanne Chisholm.

The Family Council will hold a meeting on March 20 at 6 p.m. at the Behavioral Care Unit on the second floor of Van Duyn.

"What's going to happen to us? Are we going to have to experience this same kind of care? I hope not," said Tim Perrault, co-chair of the Van Duyn Family Council.

Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing issued the following statement from David Camerota, chief operating officer:

Van Duyn remains deeply concerned and troubled by recent heating and patient satisfaction issues at our rehabilitation and nursing facility. We can now report that heat has been restored fully to our facility, but work remains.

To fully address concerns, we are eager to work with our patients, our patient’s families and our community partners to pave a path forward to provide excellent care to each of our patients.

To this end, we have reached out to Syracuse community and religious leaders to garner their input and discuss ways we can best serve our patients and the Central New York community.

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