St. Barnabas NH honors fire hero

St. Barnabas Nursing Home dedicated its new conference room in honor of Thomas Hughes, its long-time chairman. Hughes (r), who began his career in the NYC Sanitation Department and later became a business agent with Local 831, has led the nursing home since it opened in 1994 and been a trustee of St. Barnabas Hospital since 1986. He is shown here with Alan Rosenblut, the nursing home’s administrator.

Officials at St. Barnabas Nursing Home have dedicated the recently renovated conference room after a one-time city worker and hero who has been a long-standing chairman of its Board of Trustees.

The new Thomas Hughes Conference Room is named after the lifelong Bronx resident “in grateful recognition of his extraordinary vision, unyielding commitment to decisive leadership.” Hughes, who signed on as a member of New York City’s Department of Sanitation in 1955 and later became a Business Agent with Local 831, has served on the hospital’s board since 1986 and as Chairman of its nursing home since it opened in 1994.

“It was a tremendous surprise, I felt exhilarated when I heard they were going to name the room after me,” said Hughes, adding with a twinkle in his eye, “Usually they wait until you’ve passed away.”

Under Hughes’s leadership, the nursing home has prospered. Today, it has 199 beds, with separate units for elderly, ventilator-dependent and AIDS patients. A bridge that connects it to St. Barnabas Hospital allows residents to receive continuity of care from the hospital’s medical staff. There is now an active adult day care program that offers medical and rehabilitation services. Most recently, the nursing home received a 5-star rating (out of five stars) from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) in its new rating system of nursing homes nationwide, a score received by about 12% of all nursing homes nationally.

“Mr. Hughes has been a true visionary and is largely responsible for the success of the nursing home from both a patient and business perspective,” said Alan Rosenblut, the nursing home’s executive director/administrator since 1999. “But, it’s more than that. He’s also here three or four times a week, mingling with the residents, and making sure everything is done to their liking. He participates in all of our holiday events. He attends the wakes of those who die. He’s a very special man.”

A graduate of James Monroe High School, Hughes served with the 82nd Airborne Division and is a decorated wounded veteran of the Korean War. As a sanitation worker, he also became a civilian hero, when he entered a burning building in Harlem and single-handedly rescued a grandmother, mother and three small children. A one-time “Man of the Year” of the Emerald Society of the New York City Department of Sanitation, he has long been active in community and philanthropic endeavors.

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