NY Senate Democrats propose package of nursing home reform bills
A series of bills have been proposed with the goal of improving oversight and care at nursing homes across New York.
The package of reforms come after Gov. Andrew Cuomo came under fire for the COVID-19 pandemic's deadly toll on the state's facilities. The bills are being pushed by Democrats in the state Senate.
Long Islanders are among those fighting for reform. Jennifer Harrison, of Mastic, is feeling grief and anger after losing her step-grandmother Theresa Hagermeyer to COVID-19 last May.
"It was definitely preventable and it never should have happened," says Harrison. "We were not notified that she was being treated from COVID. We weren't allowed to have face time."
Hagermeyer and her sister Josephine Rechiele died two days apart at the Smithtown Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care. Harrison and fellow members of the group Voices for Seniors have been on the front lines of pushing for reform.
"We've been screaming from the rooftops that these reforms are much needed, especially when nobody was watching out for the people who were inside," says Harrison.
State Senate Democrats approved the package of 11 bills Monday. One bill would mandate that the state Department of Health record all COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents in hospitals as "nursing home deaths."
"We feel that it's important to act on this. So we are passing a group of bills today that is going to provide more transparency about nursing homes," says state Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport).
There's a measure that would require all nursing homes to spend at least 70% of a facility's revenue on direct patient care. Another bill creates a standardized program to allow personal care and compassionate care visitors and nursing homes.
Stephen Hanse, of NYS Health Facilities Organization, says the bills don't go far enough to address the lack of funding for adequate nursing home care and support of long-term care staff.
"The state for too long has really treated Medicaid and nursing homes as an expense and not an investment and what we've seen with the low tide of COVID is that has come out," says Hanse.
Harrison says the reforms come too late to help her step-grandmother, but she's hopeful the measures will help prevent unnecessary deaths and heartache in the future. She's also calling for an independent investigation with subpoena power to look into Cuomo's handling of the virus in nursing homes.