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Time To Improve Nursing Homes Situation Statewide

Now that we are getting a better handle on the number of COVID-19 deaths in New York’s nursing homes, it’s time to use that information to make the situation better.

The state’s undercount of nursing home deaths is far from the only important part of Attorney General Letitia James’ report on nursing homes’ responses to COVID-19.

James’ investigation showed nursing homes’ lack of compliance with infection control protocols put residents at increased risk of harm; facilities that had lower pre-pandemic staffing ratings had higher COVID-19 fatality rates; insufficient personal protective equipment for nursing home staff put residents at increased risk of harm; the current state reimbursement model for nursing homes gives a financial incentive to owners of for-profit nursing homes to transfer money to related parties 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; and 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.

Many of the deaths — including those in Chautauqua County — came long after the much-maligned decision by the state to admit COVID-19 patients into nursing homes was changed. But the other issues James found did not. If Republicans are serious about helping people, they will broaden their focus from simply bashing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Howard Zucker, state health commissioner, and use the power of the federal and state governments to improve the quality of care provided in our nursing homes.

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