Audit: DOH misled the public on nursing home deaths

Two years after the pandemic upended everyone’s lives, a new report finds the state Department of Health was not prepared to respond to disease outbreaks in nursing homes.

New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released an audit Tuesday night. He says former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration failed to publicly account for the deaths of more than 4,000 nursing home residents.

The 41-page report finds that a persistent lack of funding for public health over the last decade forced the Department of Health to operate without critical information systems and staff.

DiNapoli also says the DOH didn’t provide accurate COVID-19 death counts to the public and became "entangled in the undercounting of those deaths" as then-Gov. Cuomo took control of information given to the public.

According to DiNapoli, the Health Department was not able to explain the discrepancies.

DiNapoli recommends the executive chamber improve internal control, cooperation with state oversight inquiries, external reporting and communication.

State Attorney General Tish James released a statement saying that DiNapoli "affirms many of the findings that we uncovered last year about the state’s response to COVID, most notably that DOH and the former governor undercounted the number of deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent."

Cuomo has insisted that his administration was following federal guidance and has called such investigations were politically motivated.

Hear reaction from state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle by watching the video of Jonathan Hunter’s story.

The New York State Health Department released this statement:

"The Department further disagrees with the Draft’s Report’s conflation of transparency concerns that have been raised regarding the prior Administration’s public disclosures of COVID-19 information."

MORE: Audit on state’s response to nursing home deaths