No New York nursing home has lost its licenses yet despite widespread COVID-19 deaths at the facilities, government assistants Andrew Cuomo said recently – grasping that state laws are too soft and their hands are tied.
Members of Cuomo’s team made the remarks during the now infamous meeting last week with Democratic lawmakers, in which top aide Melissa DeRosa admitted that state officials withheld judgmental data shows the extent of the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
“I think many of these nursing homes, frankly, retroactively, even before COVID got away with a lot for many years,” DeRosa said during the virtual meeting behind closed doors, the sound of which was reviewed by the Post.
DeRosa responded to a call from State Attorney Ron Kim (D-Queens) – whose uncle is believed to have died of coronavirus in a nursing home – to hold “the bad actors accountable” and bring “retroactive justice” to facilities that mixed COVID-positive residents with others so that the virus could spread.
“I think if there’s evidence that someone was intentional, or someone was negligent in a way that goes beyond the normal course that costs people’s lives, I think we all share the same goal, which is to hold them accountable, “DeRosa said.
Under pressure from State Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange) over what steps the state has actually taken to keep responsible homes unable to sniff, Beth Garvey, Cuomo’s adviser, admitted there was not much to report.
“It has not happened,” Garvey said, asking if the state has revoked the licenses for nursing homes, which Cuomo has threatened it would result in serious violations.
“Of course, we have a significant due process for the operators that we need to review and consult. So they’re still going. ”
“At this point, you know, we do not have any recipients designated right now,” Garvey continued, asking if any facilities had been placed in reception.
The facilities have also not been hit very hard in the wallet.
Between the start of the pandemic and February 4, the State Department of Health conducted 2,284 infection control inspections at nursing homes.
But the audits have resulted in only 170 violations being issued, which Skoufis said “seems low given the kind of knowledge we all work with.”
However, these 170 violations have resulted in only $ 1.3 million in fines, with state fines limited to $ 10,000 per year. PCS.
“Ten thousand dollars is really the maximum we can assess for a violation, even an intentional violation of public health law,” Garvey said.
Skoufis noted, however, that $ 1.3 million over 170 violations shake out an average of approx. $ 7,650 pr. Violation, an amount which he said, “is equivalent to a blow to the wrist.”
DeRosa acknowledged the need to intensify enforcement, but questioned the extent to which it was possible under existing state law.
“I think it’s something we need to see again, I think we need to increase sanctions,” she said. “I do not suggest that we do not have a proper process. But if there is a way we can change the law where we can speed up some of this, we have to do it. ”
Richard Mollot, leader of the Long Term Care Community Coalition’s resident group, said Cuomo’s aides correctly identified a problem with the status quo – but that they did not need to point the problem to lawmakers.
“The governor and the Department of Health do not have to wait for the legislature,” Mollot said.
“They can provide immediate relief to residents and families by improving enforcement of minimum standards, releasing guidance that allows each resident to designate a visitor, and open communication with residents.”
However, James Clyne, CEO of nursing home law firm Leading Age NY, said more regulation was not the solution.
“Apart from nuclear power plants, no one is more regulated than nursing homes,” Clyne said. “Several sanctions are not the answer. The solution works with nursing homes to provide us with the tools we need. ”
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded on Sunday: “Lawmakers seemed to agree with us that the fines were too low and new actions are needed to further protect patients in these facilities and there was an obligation to further discuss these. vital changes. ”
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