State lawmakers hold second hearing on nursing homes and the coronavirus

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State legislature held its second and last scheduled virtual hearing on Monday on COVID-19 and residential health care facilities. 

“The asymptomatic spread and the lack of testing were the most significant key factors in our facilities,” said Steven Hanse with the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living. He also said, at the height of the pandemic, nursing homes faced shortages of personal protective equipment.

“Nursing homes in April, in one of the busier weeks, were going through 12 million pieces of PPE per week. That’s a lot of gloves gowns, masks, shields,” said Jim Clyne with Leading Age New York.

Hanse said rural facilities have seemed to have felt the weight of PPE and staff shortages more than urban ones. 

“We have in rural counties significant, tremendous staffing shortages. CNAs and LPNs. What we have seen — and we saw this prior to the pandemic — were that LPNs who had traditionally worked in nursing homes were beginning to work more and more in hospitals because hospitals, given their reimbursement rate, can always financially pay more,” Hanse said. 

According to a report put out by the state department of health, there have been about 6,400 nursing homes deaths. But, if a nursing home resident dies due to COVID in a hospital, they’re not counted as a nursing home death. 

That death information was sought by lawmakers at last week’s hearing from State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. The Commissioner said he would share that information with lawmakers after he was able to look through it. On Monday, the Commissioner did not testify again.

In a conference call, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said, “Dr. Zucker participated for hours last week. We said if the legislature has additional questions, they could submit them in writing, and we’ll respond to everything in writing—which I assume they would make public. So, it seems that— I don’t really know where else you want this to go?”

“I will join my colleagues in my disappointment that Commissioner Zucker has not been recalled to complete his testimony, that he was woefully unprepared for last Monday,” said NYS Senator Tom O’Mara. 

Republicans continue to call for an independent investigation or a “separate body with subpoena power” to study the issue nursing home deaths in the state. 

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