ALBANY, N.Y. (WEMT) – Following a call from former Governor George Pataki, members of the New York State Senate Republican Conference are also calling for an independent investigation of the state’s response to COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

The Senators say Governor Cuomo and the state Department of Health “have mandated that nursing homes admit COVID-19 positive patients into their facilities, a directive that has imported the virus into places that house New York’s most vulnerable.”

Senate Republicans are also calling for an immediate change in policy to create regionally based specialty long-term care facilities for COVID-19 positive nursing home residents.

“Our efforts on the front lines of this nursing home crisis and tragic loss of lives in regional nursing homes, particularly at Hornell Gardens in Steuben County, helped recently lead to an important shift in state policy that now prevents nursing home employees who tested positive for COVID-19 from returning to work for two weeks. Working as a team with Hornell Mayor Buckley, County Manager Wheeler, the entire Steuben County Health Department, and all of the local officials and health care providers working around the clock on the COVID-19 response, I can attest to our collective frustration with the response of the Cuomo administration to taking control of our nursing home hot spots. We repeatedly called for aggressive and decisive actions by the state Health Department to test, isolate, and prevent spread. I believe an independent investigation into this particular aspect of New York’s COVID-19 response is warranted and necessary for the families who have lost loved ones, the caregivers putting themselves at risk, and to ensure better and safer policies moving forward.”

Tom O’Mara (R,C,I) Big Flats

“Our nursing homes, their staff, and their residents, who are really a family, are on the absolute front lines of this pandemic, and they need our strong and enduring support. We know that allowing COVID into a nursing home is an invitation for it to spread, and we need to make sure that we take necessary steps to protect residents. We also believe that an independent investigation into the state’s actions is warranted to make sure that the tragic deaths at these nursing homes never occur again,” said Senate Republican Leader John J. Flanagan.

On Tuesday evening Governor Pataki called for a federal investigation into the state’s response, saying the Center for Disease Control or Health and Human Services should lead the investigation after over 1,700 unreported nursing home deaths came to light.

The state’s reporting of nursing home deaths has been behind county reports, including Steuben County where approximately 20 nursing home deaths were not reported by the state weeks after the county’s initial report.

“When your loved one enters a nursing home, you expect them to be safe — safer than they are even in their own homes. Many of these facilities are going above and beyond to protect residents while the state’s response to the crisis in nursing homes has been wholly inadequate. Instead of scapegoating, or threatening blanket receivership, the state needs to step up to the plate, and do all that it can to support these facilities to ensure that residents are receiving the highest quality of care. Weeks ago, I released a plan that would create an independent council to enforce transparency in facilities and concentrate COVID-19 patients in separate specialty care centers. The state needs to take these proposals seriously and act immediately to protect residents and give families peace of mind,” said Senator Sue Serino, Ranking Member of the Senate’s Aging Committee.

“An independent investigation is the only way to ensure transparency and find out what happened in these nursing homes and why.  Residents and families deserve answers that can only be found through an investigation by impartial experts. It is inappropriate for the Department of Health to lead a probe into its own procedures,” said Senator Patrick Gallivan, Ranking Member of the Senate’s Health Committee.