Republican lawmakers are calling for a hearing and investigation into the handling of nursing home policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.
In a letter to the chairmen of the Committees on Aging, Health, and Oversight, Analysis and Investigations, members of the Assembly Minority Conference have called on the Legislature to convene a hearing to review and investigate New York’s policies, decisions and protocols that were utilized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on state-regulated nursing home facilities. With more than 5,000 deaths reported, a full 25 percent of COVID-related fatalities have occurred in New York state’s nursing homes.
On March 25, the state Department of Health (DOH) issued a directive requiring nursing homes to admit individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Gov. Cuomo yesterday announced new guidance for nursing homes – more than six weeks after the initial directive – that limits the original DOH order. In addition, many veterans’ homes across New York have experienced severe impacts. The Long Island State Veterans Home reported 53 deaths. The New York State Veterans Home at St. Albans in Queens reported 33 deaths. The state Veterans Home at Montrose in Westchester has lost 22 residents to the COVID-19 virus.
“The threat of an outbreak in adult-care facilities was evident early, and the state’s policies placing patients and staff in harm’s way reek of negligence. This is wholly unacceptable,” said Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac), Minority Ranker on the Committee on Health. “Sadly, last week, 1,700 new COVID-19 nursing home deaths were added to the state’s total, including dozens of military veterans living in state-run facilities. The Legislature has announced a hearing on the Federal Response to Economic Effects of COVID-19; however, the Committees on Health, Aging, Veterans and Investigations have not been included. Relying solely on the state attorney general’s investigation into nursing homes is a mistake and ignores the inherent bias the state has toward itself. In the interest of openness and transparency, the Legislature owes New Yorkers a hearing into this mess. These aren’t just statistics, these were people’s mothers, fathers, grandmothers and uncles. We demand an explanation; families deserve answers.”
“According to recent reports, 1,050 Long Island nursing home residents alone have died from COVID-19, nearly 70 percent more than previously reported. This is alarming,” said Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino (R,C,I-Sayville), member of the Committee on Health. “Our senior population represents a highly-vulnerable segment of society, and it is our responsibility to ensure they are cared for in a safe and efficient manner.”
“Despite learning of the deaths of thousands of patients in nursing homes nationally, the state’s efforts to protect residents and staff at nursing homes across New York have fallen grossly short,” said Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R,C,I,Ref-Castleton), Minority Ranker on the Committee on Aging. “Our nursing homes lacked sufficient resources and assistance from the state to ensure an effective response. This is no way to protect and care for one of our most vulnerable populations.”
“The attorney general’s office and state Health Department have announced they will investigate what has happened, but as legislators we must conduct our own inquiry into this critical matter,” said Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (R,C,I,Ref-Lyons), Minority Ranker on the Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation. “During what may very well be one of the worst pandemics in modern times, the state’s directives and reporting on nursing home incidents are alarming. While we are starting to see a slight decline in the prevalence of this virus, we are not yet out of the woods. We ask the chairmen of the Committees on Aging, Health and Oversight to convene an investigative hearing and demand answers so future issues may be prevented.”