Gounardes to the Rescue With Nursing Home Legislation

Originally published in Kings County Politics on May 01, 2020.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Gerritsen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park) and Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Queens) this week announced that they will be introducing new nursing home regulatory legislation in the wake of a devastating flood of nursing home deaths across the city.

The measure comes as the State Department of Health (DOH), under Gov. Andrew Cuomo failed to provide any proactive plans to deal with possible problems at nursing homes during the pandemic. This despite multiple warnings from the Trump Administration, and ongoing data showing that people over 75 have the highest fatality rates from coronavirus illness.

“As the devastation of what has happened in our nursing homes has become clear, many of us are reeling with anger, frustration and deep sadness. The most important thing is that we act to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again,” said Gounardes.

Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James did on April 23 launch an investigation of nursing homes, but it came following scores of deaths and a reported lack of personal protective equipment (PPP) for nursing home workers.

On April 23, Cuomo also reactively announced a new directive requiring nursing homes to immediately report to DOH the actions they have taken to comply with all DOH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laws, regulations, directives and guidance.

The Gounardes/Kim proposed legislation would apply specifically to the administration of residential healthcare facilities during state disaster emergencies relating to a disease outbreak.

In those times, it would mandate the facilities maintain adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and daily record-keeping of their usage, and to give timely and consistent communication with residents and their loved ones about any suspected or confirmed infections.

It also proactively calls for the transfer with DOH support, any COVID-19 patients and the finding of alternative options for those residents and their family members.

Additionally, the measure would inform residents of alternative care options, such as home care, that they may pursue. If they opt for such alternatives, the DOH will allocate the appropriations needed to secure them

The legislation also ensure residents and loved ones can communicate at least three times daily, and proactively requires all facilities to provide detailed daily reports to the state and local health departments on potential disease spread on their premises.

For any mismanaged facilities, the DOH would also have the authority to appoint temporary operators, who would assume operational control and responsibility.

A legislative memo of the bill can be viewed here. The language for the bill can be found here.

“This bill would guarantee that the Department of Health maintains transparency, communication and safety measures so families know their loved ones are safe. You can evaluate a society by how we treat our most vulnerable members, and by that standard, this was a terrible failure. We must do better,” said Gounardes.