State to investigate nursing home conditions
With over 3,600 COVID-19 deaths in state nursing homes and adult care facilities reported as of April 27, Gov. Cuomo announced that the Department of Health and Attorney General Letitia James will be conducting a joint investigation to determine whether facilities are administering appropriate levels of care to residents.
“Nursing homes are our top priority. They have been from day one,” Cuomo said at his April 23 daily press briefing. “They get paid to take care of a resident and they have to do it in accordance with state rules. If they don’t we will take appropriate action and the state DOH and the Attorney General will commence an investigation to make sure all those policies are in place and being followed. If they’re not being followed they can be subjected to a fine or they can lose their license. It’s that simple.”
DOH data revealed that nearly 21 percent of state COVID-19 deaths were occurring in nursing home facilities, which, coupled with reports that they failed to maintain transparency with residents and their families on the status of the virus, led the state to implement additional regulations on adult care residencies. Nursing homes are required to equip staff with appropriate personal protective gear and to check their temperatures before they enter the facility.
Additionally, all visitations are suspended and residents who test positive for COVID-19 must be quarantined and cared for by staff separately from residents who have not tested positive. The homes are required to inform all residents and family members of a positive test within the building or of a COVID-related death within 24 hours.
On April 23, James announced the launch of a hotline where residents, families and members of the public can report complaints about facilities that have not provided required communications with families about COVID-19 diagnoses or fatalities, as well as complaints about nursing home abuse, neglect and failure to follow the new state regulations.
“We recognize that the most vulnerable New Yorkers are continuing to suffer through this crisis at nursing homes across the state,” James said in a prepared statement. “Every nursing home should be provided with adequate PPE and testing, and enhanced infection control protocols must be implemented to protect residents ... My office will continue to work hard to protect residents of nursing homes and make sure their rights are preserved during this crisis and beyond.”
City Councilmember Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) released an April 26 statement, claiming that Cuomo’s decision forcing nursing homes to accept residents with the coronavirus is a mistake that endangers healthy people there.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a tragic toll on our nursing homes,” said Holden. “These facilities are filled with the people who are most likely to have severe cases of the virus, yet they have struggled with a shortage of PPE and a lack of space to isolate coronavirus patients. Now that our hospitals have begun to stabilize, the state must lift this directive and ensure all nursing home patients are treated in hospitals where they can be properly isolated and treated until they are no longer contagious.”
In an effort to protect city facilities, which have borne nearly 60 percent of the state nursing home deaths — led by Queens with 790 — Mayor de Blasio announced on April 23 that he will direct supplies and clinical staff volunteers to 169 nursing homes here to support the fight against COVID-19.
“Our city’s nursing homes are home to some of those most at risk for COVID-19,” said de Blasio. “They need our support more than ever, which is why we are stepping in and sending more staff and support to assist those who protect and care for our most vulnerable.”
De Blasio also announced up-to-date guidance on isolation and testing procedures for nursing homes implemented by the city Department of Mental Health and Hygiene as well as the creation of a task force to work with approximately half of all nursing homes to collect data on staffing, PPE, management in case of death and other needs.
On April 23, Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) stated that testing within nursing homes needed to be ramped up in order to target the spread.
“We have all seen the horrendous numbers that have come out from nursing homes in our district. They do not have the tools and the president just said he would invoke, again, the Defense Production Act, to make sure New York gets resources to be able to test people. People in our nursing homes need to be tested,” she said.