Fired nursing home administrator asked employees to test positive for COVID

Sullivan County Adult Care Center.
Former Sullivan County Adult Care Center Administrator Burt Kohn.

MONTICELLO – Burt Kohn, the former administrator of the Sullivan County Adult Care Center (ACC) was fired in October 2021 after being charged with incompetence and misconduct by the county.

Charges included Kohn asking employees of the nursing home to volunteer to test positive for COVID.  After his termination, Kohn filed an appeal with the Supreme Court Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department to get his job back.  The court recently decided to uphold the termination for actions Kohn took during the height of the COVID pandemic.

Kohn was appointed to the position in October 2020 and terminated in October 2021.

In at least three instances between March 2021 and May 2021, Kohn asked staff members to volunteer to test positive for COVID-19 in order to reduce the visitation at the facility by family and friends of patients.  During the hearing, he admitted doing so in order to protect the clients and staff.  The former administrator testified that he stopped asking the question when a staff member said the question made her uncomfortable.

Addressing the actions of Kohn, the court said, “Petitioner’s testimony that he asked this question as a joke, to ‘lighten the load’ evinces remarkably poor judgment and a flippant disregard of the potential seriousness of contracting COVID-19, all the more so in a nursing home environment.

The original charges against Kohn included misconduct when he suggested to a certain ACC employee that she share her login information with another employee for the purposes of entering required data into the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) portal for COVID data.  The CDC has strict guidelines against having unauthorized people gain access to the database, and violators are subject to fines and penalties.

The county’s code of conduct was violated by Kohn when he knowingly suggested that the employee share credentials with a coworker.  Kohn himself did not have access to the system and when given the opportunity to be only the second employee of ACC to get authorization, he neglected to file for his credentials.  The appellate judges said that Kohn, “Displayed incompetence by failing to recognize that his suggestion, if acted upon, exposed ACC to penalties.”

In upholding the decision to fire Kohn, the ruling recognized that he had no prior disciplinary record during his lengthy career as a healthcare administrator but said, “When considering petitioner’s position as the administrator of a nursing home during the COVID-19 pandemic, which required the highest degree of integrity, diligence, and competence in light of the vulnerability of ACC’s clients and staff, we cannot conclude that the penalty of termination is “so disproportionate to the charged offenses as to shock one’s sense of fairness.


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