Nursing home resident died during evacuation, NY Times reports

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A 92-year-old resident died during the evacuation of a nursing home in western New York last week, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Thirteen deaths have been attributed to a massive snowstorm that struck Buffalo and the surrounding region, but the death of Garden Gate Health Care resident Ruth Snyder “raised the most questions,” Times reporter Anemona Hartocollis wrote.* However, it appears that the facility executed its “detailed” evacuation plan “to the letter,” Hartocollis reported.

Garden Gate first had to shift some residents from their rooms to a different part of the building, after the roof on a neighboring warehouse collapsed and caused a gas leak. Then, a sagging roof at Garden Gate prompted a full evacuation.

Residents were transferred to a staging area at a former shopping mall, and it was there that Snyder first experienced distress, according to the Times. Garden Gate CEO Jim McGuire subsequently clarified that it was a different resident who fell ill at the staging area, and that resident has since returned to the facility and is "doing well."*

At the staging area, Snyder may have had a seizure. She revived and appeared to be in stable condition, and so was moved to another nursing home, triage nurse Arlene Jerge told the Times. Shortly after arriving at that facility, Snyder died of natural causes, according to Zerline Tiu-Snyderman, M.D., medical director of the McGuire Group, which runs Garden Gate and other facilities. She and other staff members said they were saddened by Snyder's death, but that it is unclear what role the evacuation played.

The Erie County health commissioner concurred that the death cannot be directly attributed to the evacuation.

After experts assessed that the nursing home roof would not collapse, residents returned, according to the Times.

*Editor's Note: This story has been updated from a previous version that named Nancy Borowick as the reporter. She was the photographer. Comments made by CEO Jim McGuire in a Nov. 28 letter to the press also have been added to this article, which originally ran on on Nov. 25.