Gov. Andrew Cuomo has finally admitted — tacitly and partially, anyway — the mistake that was state health chief Howard Zucker’s order that nursing homes must admit coronavirus-positive patients.
On Sunday, Cuomo announced a new regulation: Such patients must now test negative for the virus before hospitals can return them to nursing homes. Yet the gov also admitted that COVID-19 cases might still go to the facilities via other routes, and didn’t explicitly overrule Zucker’s March 25 mandate that homes must accept people despite their testing status — indeed, couldn’t even require a test pre-admission.
The gov’s people say that a home that simply can’t accommodate coronavirus patients never had to take them — though they are obliged to help those people find a place that will, with help available from the state if needed. That is: Zucker’s mandate was never more than a “don’t discriminate” rule. But Zucker publicly presented it as “must accept” — and Cuomo’s remarks regularly implied there must be something wrong with a home that couldn’t handle corona patients.
So, while the gov’s people imply that some homes simply misunderstood the rules, the real message to operators was that declaring themselves overwhelmed would put their licenses at risk. Notably, the chief of one Cobble Hill facility not only had his request for PPE denied, he got turned down cold when he then asked to transfer patients.
Then, too, Zucker’s Department of Health has issued other heartless orders during this crisis — the now-rescinded “don’t even try to resuscitate” mandate to EMTs for cardiac-arrest cases, as well as telling at least one home it was OK to keep staffers on the job after they’d tested positive.
Also telling: The gov has ordered an investigation that’s plainly supposed to pin all the blame on nursing and adult-care facilities: It’s led by state Attorney General Tish James, who got her job with Cuomo’s crucial assistance — and it’s only looking at what homes did wrong.
We’re sure James will uncover plenty of real horrors: Everyone (who cared to know) has long been aware that many New York nursing homes leave a lot to be desired. But that was all the more reason for Zucker & Co. to focus on policing and assisting these facilities from the start — rather than issuing edicts that led to repeated and needless tragedies.
|New York Government's March-25 order that allegedly killed nearly 2,000 nursing homes residents in NY.|
Calls are rising for an independent investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes amid the coronavirus crisis — and rightly so.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s own investigation, which he handpicked protégé Letitia James to lead, plainly won’t get to the bottom of many key issues: The gov and his team won’t even admit that forcing facilities to take in COVID-positive patients was a mistake. That mandate is still in effect.
Back on March 10, Cuomo bragged of how the state was protecting residents of New York’s 1,100 nursing homes and adult-care facilities. “You see that in the 22 deaths in Washington compared to New York with no deaths,” he said. “Right? Same number of cases, look how much higher Washington is. Because it’s about senior citizens.”
Yes, the elderly are the most virus-vulnerable, with those aged 60 and up accounting for 85 percent of Empire State corona deaths. But Cuomo didn’t protect them: Washington state has fewer than 1,000 coronavirus deaths total, while New York lost 5,000 lives in nursing and adult-care homes alone.
And, two weeks after Cuomo’s big brag, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker ordered nursing homes to take in corona-positive patients. Neither Zucker nor Cuomo explained that March 25 mandate. The gov insists it’s in keeping with federal guidelines, yet they call for no such regulation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised nursing homes: “Keep COVID-19 from entering your facility.”
How did his team even think up the rule? Did the politically potent hospital lobby push for it? The gov is disingenuous at best when he claims homes need merely tell the Health Department if they can’t handle coronavirus patients. Donny Tuchman, CEO of Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill Health Center, asked about transferring out some of his COVID-positive patients back on April 10. More than 50 of his residents have died.
Zucker’s order not only forbids nursing homes from rejecting the infected — it doesn’t even let them require testing for the disease before admission. Only in late April, a month after the “must accept” order, did the state begin reaching out to check on homes’ ability to administer tests, officials in several counties told The Post. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan offered to pick test kits up in Albany himself — and never heard back.
The James investigation will focus on whether homes are “following the rules” — not on those deadly rules themselves. An independent probe is a must.
|Even Chinese communists couldn't manage to kill as many oldies as New York socialists.|