Thursday, April 30, 2020

Legislator Graves reacts to “Nursing Home Policy"

Karl Graves,
Allegany County Legislator
The following information about New York States controversial “Nursing Home Policy”, which puts thousands of elderly at risk, was sent to me by my friend, former Allegany County Legislator David Pullen. He recommends that we contact our representatives about this policy. After review I think you will agree immediate action should be taken.
On March 25th, 2020, the New York State Health Department issued a policy “Directive” that requires nursing homes to accept the transfer of COVID 19 positive patients from hospitals.  This Directive forbids nursing homes from requiring or performing COVID 19 testing on any of these transferred COVID 19 patients.  By adopting this policy our State has chosen to ignore the fact that elderly nursing home patients are among those most vulnerable to the COVID 19 infection. This group is particularly susceptible to the COVID 19 virus and has among the worst outcomes once infected.  NYS’s justification for this policy was the need to have more hospital rooms available for the care of new COVID 19 patients.  In effect, New York State has chosen to provide for younger COVID 19 patients at the expense of older and more vulnerable senior citizens.  The patients being transferred were sent to the hospital because they had COVID 19.  Once they recover to the point where they are deemed “stable” the State mandates that they be transferred to a lower level of care, usually at a nursing home.  These patients are still “COVID 19 active” but no longer require acute medical care.  The problem is that they are still contagious and can infect the staff and residents at a nursing home.  
New York’s new policy has been in effect for just over one month.  Over that time the number of COVID 19 hospital patients has peaked and started to drop off.  Despite predictions to the contrary, there are surplus hospital beds and surplus Intensive Care Unit (“ICU”) beds available throughout New York State, including New York City.  However, the number of COVID 19 infected residents and staff and COVID 19 related deaths in nursing homes has soared. The nursing home industry estimates that more than 5,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from COVID 19.  Ironically most states don’t break down statistics to show whether a COVID 19 death involved a current or former nursing home resident.  The federal government has started mandating that states report these statistics.
Because of the lack of statistics, it is impossible to know exactly how many of the nursing home deaths are the result of COVID 19, or how many resulted from the transfer of active COVID 19 cases from hospitals to nursing homes.  However, the nursing home industry has no doubts about the cause.  The American Health Care Association has publicly objected to this policy and has demanded that it be canceled.  Doctors and nurses at nursing homes see a direct correlation between the State mandated transfers and the surge in infections and deaths.  However, Governor Cuomo has refused to consider rescinding this Directive.  Instead he has threatened that any nursing home facility that refuses to accept COVID 19 patients will be investigated.  If the State determines that a nursing home refused transfers of COVID 19 patients the Governor has promised that the facility will be fined or have its license revoked.  Not surprisingly, few facilities have refused to accept transferred COVID 19 “active” patients.
There are numerous Internet articles about this growing health disaster.  Many families who have lost loved ones are threatening lawsuits against the state and nursing homes. However, the statute passed by the State Legislature in early March gives the State immunity from suit for anything resulting from the COVID 19 pandemic.  How convenient.  Many of the articles discuss alternatives that NYS could have implemented.  These alternatives have saved thousands of lives in other states.  The most common suggestion is to establish “dedicated COVID 19 nursing homes.”  However, the NYS Health Department has refused to consider that option.  No reason for this refusal has been given. Another proposal is for weekly COVID 19 testing of nursing home residents and staff.  Such testing would enable nursing home Administrators to know who to isolate or quarantine.   Why aren’t we exploring every option that might save lives?
The CDC (“Centers for Disease Control”) has established guidelines for protecting nursing home patients from COVID 19.  One CDC guideline is to keep those who have been exposed or infected out of nursing homes.  Another guideline is to perform extensive testing so that each nursing home can determine if someone (residents, staff, visitors, family) are infected.  The March 25th, 2020 State Health Department Directive actually forbids COVID 19 testing hospital patients being discharged before admitting them to a nursing home.  New York State is intentionally choosing to ignore the risk it is creating for nursing home residents.   By forbidding such testing NYS leaving nursing home residents and staff defenseless and vulnerable.  Why is NYS ignoring CDC guidelines?  I find this deeply troubling and offensive.  I urge local residents to contact their State officials to complain about this reprehensible policy.Thank you for sharing this information with us David. Our best leaders will work to fix our public health agencies and end our dependence on China and others for our essential necessities.  We must prepare ourselves to face the next pandemic without surrendering our way of life.
Karl Graves
Allegany County Legislator 
State Capitol  Lieutenant Governor   Albany, NY  12224  State Capitol Telephone:  518-474-8390  Albany, NY  12224  E-mail:  Telephone:   518-402-2292
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