Former New York Governor George Pataki calls for an investigation into New York’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes

Politics

NEW YORK (WETM) – Former New York Governor George Pataki is calling for an independent investigation into Governor Cuomo’s administration over the handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes across the Empire State.

Pataki’s calls for an investigation come after New York State reported 1,700 previously undisclosed nursing home deaths across the state.

“It’s a disgrace,” said the former Republican Governor on Tuesday evening. “We had a horrible condition with thousands of deaths in the nursing homes and then today to find out there were 1,700 additional nursing home deaths in New York and assisted living facilities that we hadn’t even heard about it’s just incomprehensible.”

Pataki would like to see a federal agency lead the investigation, whether it be the Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Disease Control.

“It can’t be the state investigating itself… It’s critical that we investigate this independently so that no other state makes the mistake that New York has.”

The former Governor went on to say that “Governor Cuomo’s policies have made it virtually impossible for nursing homes to appropriately care for them” and that the administration forced facilities to take on patients who tested positive.”

New York maintains a list of facilities and recently updated it to record all facilities in that reported deaths.

According to the state’s list of nursing home deaths, Steuben County has only nine nursing home fatalities. The county and three facilities (Hornell Gardens, Elderwood at Hornell, and Fred and Harriett Taylor Nursing Center) have reported 29 COVID-19 deaths in Steuben County nursing homes.

18 News requested additional information from the New York State Department of Health and were provided this statement last week.

The data on this page has updated information on nursing home and adult care facilities COVID-19 deaths broken down by county as well as facility. The facility data are numbers provided by nursing homes and adult care facilities of confirmed and, in some cases, presumed COVID-19 fatalities that occurred at each specific facility. Any nursing homes or adult care facilities reporting fewer than five fatalities are excluded for privacy purposes. The county level information includes nursing home and adult care facilities residents who died at nursing homes, assisted living facilities or hospitals.

Jill Montag, Public Information Officer, New York State Department of Health

After a follow-up request, an additional statement was provided explaining the nursing home data collection.

DOH is providing facility-specific and county level aggregate data provided to us as part of a daily census report from more than 600 nursing homes and 500 adult care facilities.  In addition to working with facilities to address patient care and safety, infection control practices, and equipment and staffing needs, we also implemented a new data collection system to expedite current and retrospective data to assist facilities with reporting – an unprecedented action and something we got done in the middle of the worst public health crisis in a century.  This crisis and our response to it continues to evolve, and the unprecedented amount and specificity of data we are providing to the public will continue to evolve with it.

Jill Montag, Public Information Officer, New York State Department of Health

Last week 18 News requested additional information from the New York State Department of Health through the Freedom of Information Law, but were told “information regarding any nursing home reporting five or less deaths is not posted on the Tracker pursuant to Public Officers Law §87(2)(b), because disclosure ‘would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy'” and were referred back to the New York State COVID-19 tracker

Steuben County Public Health Director Darlene Smith confirms that the numbers reported by New York State are incorrect.

We can confirm there are many more than 6 nursing home deaths… It is definitely hard to keep up with all the data requests and information management.

Darlene Smith, Steuben County Public Health Director.

According to New York State Law, nursing homes must report incidents within 24 hours.

Last week Chuck Hayes, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for Elderwood, told 18 News that Elderwood at Hornell has reported four deaths to the New York State Department of Health.

I can confirm that Elderwood at Hornell has reported to state and county officials a total of four (4) COVID-19 related deaths. Three occurred at the facility, while one resident passed at the hospital.

Chuck Hayes, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Elderwood

In addition last week, Arnot Health tells 18 News that eight COVID-19 deaths have occurred at the Fred and Harriett Taylor Health Center at the Ira Davenport Hospital campus.

There have been 8 COVID-19 related deaths at the Ira Davenport Memorial Hospital SNF/HRF (the official name; the facility is located in the Fred and Harriett Taylor Health Center, adjoining the hospital), that we have reported to the Steuben County Public Health throughout the course of this pandemic.   As with any resident that passes away while in our care, we are saddened by these losses and have extended our condolences to their family and friends.

Ken Roberts
System Director
Marketing, Communications & Community Relations

Additional information from Arnot Health’s statement can be found here.

18 News has reached out to Hurlbut Care Communities, who operates Hornell Gardens, and were directed to a statement from CEO Robert Hurlbut on the company’s website.

I am a fierce advocate for resident dignity and privacy rights and am vehemently against releasing any information that would jeopardize it. The recently enacted HERDS survey, mandated by New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) requires nursing homes to not only submit the number of test positive COVID-19 cases and fatalities, which we are complying with, but also the gender, race and initials of those individuals. The latter information directly violates The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, which regulates the sharing of Personal Health Information (PHI).

We have sent NYSDOH several requests for assurances that this confidential information would be protected, with no response. We will continue to comply with all HERDS survey requirements, but I will also continue to speak out against this blatant and egregious disregard for federal law and American citizen’s legal rights to protect their personal information.

If you are as upset about this as I am, please join me in calling on the Governor to express your concerns – (518) 474-8390 or online at http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact.

Robert Hurlbut, CEO

A video was also provided on the company’s website.

In mid-April, Hurlbut and Steuben County coordinated to transported Hornell Gardens residents who did not test positive for the virus to another Hurlbut facility in Waterloo.

Three Hornell Garden residents who first tested negative and were moved to the facility in Waterloo later tested positive. They have since been transported back to Hornell Gardens, according to the county.

On April 24, Steuben County said they are not calling for any investigations, at this time, into any nursing facilities. They also do not currently have any specific requests out to New York State.

Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler said that the county was adamant about not allowing any staff who tested positive but were asymptomatic to work with other residents who tested positive.

Comprehensive testing has been completed at all three facilities, as well as the Bath VA where no deaths have been reported, according to the county.

Seventy-six percent of Steuben County’s COVID-19 deaths to date have been nursing home residents.

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