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Nursing home pandemic response must improve, DiNapoli says

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  • Staff Report 

A follow-up report by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reveals that the Department of Health (DOH) has made only limited progress in addressing issues found in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes after a March 2022 audit criticized the state’s unpreparedness for infectious disease outbreaks in these facilities, highlighting a decade of underinvestment in public health and inaccurate COVID-19 death counts.

DiNapoli noted the pandemic’s devastating impact on families, especially those with loved ones in nursing homes. The follow-up report shows that the state has only marginally improved its management of the outbreak, stressing the need for significant work to address ongoing problems and avoid repeating past mistakes.

The initial audit had four key recommendations for the DOH, of which only one was fully implemented. The report found that while there have been some improvements in data quality, significant gaps remain in the use of infection control data and the reliability of public nursing home data. The state has also failed to provide clear guidance to facilities on data submission and has not adequately addressed issues with its data systems. In response, the DOH has begun a needs assessment and requested new staff, but more comprehensive actions are needed to ensure effective outbreak management and public health emergency preparedness.

An independent review of the state’s pandemic response, conducted by an outside contractor, is also underway. This review is expected to provide further insights and help in improving accountability and preparedness for future public health crises.