ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A bill that would strip health care facilities and health care professionals of their COVID-19 related legal immunity has passed through the New York State Assembly. The bill is part of a sweeping reform of nursing home legislation designed to “increase safety and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers living in nursing homes.”

An executive order giving some legal immunity to doctors and nurses serving on the frontlines expired in May, but a bill included in April’s state budget both extended those protections and included protections for nursing home corporate executives.

Speaking before the bill passed the Assembly, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi said the legislation would: “close any loopholes and protect nursing home residents.”

“It is unconscionable that during a health care crisis residential facilities would inappropriately and carelessly discharge patients or transfer them to facilities that lack the care they need.

This legislation would codify New York regulations and federal law to close any loopholes and protect nursing home residents.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi

Assemblyman Ron Kim, who sponsored the bill, has suggested a link between the wide-ranging protections and the state’s decision to under-report COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes.

Kim claims the immunity provisions were drafted by lobbyists who also donated to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign.

He went on to say protections allowed facilities to spend less money on COVID-19 care, including hiring staffing and investing in PPE.

Attorney General Letitia James, whose office released a damning report into the state’s handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, has previously called for the protections to be repealed.

The AARP has gone further and called for any repeal to be retroactive, allowing families more options when it comes to lawsuits.

Some of the legal protection for nursing homes was rolled back in August, making them once again liable for prosecution regarding the care of non-COVID patients.

Should the repeal bill pass the Senate and be signed into law, it would remove the protection from prosecution in cases involving the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

The repeal is part of a package aimed at tackling issues including: quality improvements, visitation, oversight, transparency and immunity from liability.

Four bills in the package passed on March 3.

This is a developing story and more information will be added as it becomes available