New York State Senate Democrats are pushing nursing home accountability bills after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration has been accused of covering up coronavirus death tolls and shielding nursing home owners from accountability.
Ten bills were brought to the chamber, covering reforming nursing home protocols around recording deaths, expanding a resident advocate program, shrinking the staff-to-resident ratio, and expanding visitation, the New York Post reported.
“The tragic situation in our nursing homes remains a heartbreaking reminder of the toll this pandemic has taken and has made it clear that real reforms are needed,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “The Senate Majority is taking action to deliver meaningful results by increasing transparency and raising the standard of care provided at these facilities.”
The legislation comes after the Cuomo administration remained tight lipped regarding the nursing home death toll until others exposed it. One of the bills would require all nursing home residents who died of the coronavirus while hospitalized be recorded as a coronavirus death–one of the ways the Department of Health obfuscated the death toll by only counting those who died in nursing homes.
State Democrats sent state health officials sixteen questions regarding nursing home deaths in August 2020, only to receive the information in January 2021, after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a critical report that revealed Cuomo’s administration deliberately undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50%.
Governor Cuomo has responded to criticism and investigation by vowing to pass nursing home reform, and calling for stiffer financial penalties for homes that do not meet state standards.
“Ensuring that nursing homes are safe is a priority,” said a spokesman for state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat who represents sections of the Bronx. “We will be discussing these and other issues with our members.”