New York State Attorney General Letitia James released her report on the response to COVID-19 within nursing homes, analyzing both private owners and the state’s reaction in responding to this pandemic.
Most notably, James took aim at the state’s role in mandating acceptance of infected patients, saying, “Government guidance requiring the admission of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities and may have obscured the data available to assess that risk.“
Also listed in the preliminary findings by the AG’s Office:
» A larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than DOH data reflected.
» Lack of compliance with infection control protocols put residents at increased risk of harm during the COVID-19 pandemic in some facilities.
» Nursing homes that entered the pandemic with low U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Staffing ratings4 had higher COVID-19 fatality rates than facilities with higher CMS Staffing ratings.
» Insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for nursing home staff put residents at increased risk of harm during the COVID-19 pandemic in some facilities.
» Insufficient COVID-19 testing for residents and staff in the early stages of the pandemic put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities.
» The current state reimbursement model for nursing homes gives a financial incentive to owners of for-profit nursing homes to transfer funds to related parties (ultimately increasing their own profit) instead of investing in higher levels of staffing and PPE.
» Lack of nursing home compliance with the executive order requiring communication with family members caused avoidable pain and distress.
Several politicians in Western New York rallied around the reports findings, taking aim at the both Governor Cuomo and Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker.
Assemblyman Mike Norris spoke out, saying, “I am outraged by the results of the attorney general’s report which confirmed our worst fears — that Gov. Cuomo’s administration has been hiding as many as 50 percent of nursing home deaths.”
Norris added, “The downstate driven, one-party controlled state Legislature must do their jobs now before another life is lost or more facts are hidden from the public.”
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw gave his thoughts, saying, “Nursing home COVID deaths drastically underreported by Gov. Cuomo. NYS Attorney General report: nursing home COVID deaths are at least 50% higher than what Cuomo claimed. Forcing seniors stricken with COVID into nursing homes around healthy patients was a death sentence.”
Senator Rob Ortt was equally vocal, declaring, “If Health Commissioner Howard Zucker really wants to respond to the Attorney General’s nursing home report, I invite him to do so in front of the State Legislature that he’s been dodging for months. “Families deserve transparency. Now, they deserve his resignation.”