State lawmakers push for audit of COVID nursing home deaths

Republican state senators proposed legislation Monday they say would help prevent COVID from ever running rampant through nursing homes again.

They gathered at the state Capitol to call out Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett for refusing to investigate Cuomo-era nursing home COVID policies.

DIGITAL EXTRA: Full press conference with state lawmakers

Sen. Jim Tedisco is among the lawmakers introducing legislation that would compel the commissioner to review previous pandemic policies.

As you may recall, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had come under fire for a policy that sent hospitalized nursing home residents back to their facilities, even if they hadn’t tested negative – and for undercounting nursing home COVID deaths.

Tedisco has called for an independent investigation of all of it and is urging Gov. Hochul to include the legislation in her budget amendments.

Republican senators also proposed legislation to designate March 25 as "We Care Remembrance Day," to honor the nursing home residents who died from COVID-19.

NewsChannel 13 reached out to Democratic Senators Breslin and Hinchey, as well as Commissioner Bassett and Gov. Hochul for reaction.

Gov. Hochul’s Office released this statement:

"On her first day in office, Governor Hochul released additional COVID-19 data, and every day since she has worked to deliver accountability, restore trust in government, and protect vulnerable New Yorkers. Governor Hochul appointed Commissioner Bassett, a world-renowned public health expert committed to transparency and improving equity in health care, signed legislation to strengthen the long-term care system, and throughout the pandemic and the winter surge, has instituted several critical policies to protect nursing home residents from COVID-19, including increasing access to boosters, bolstering staffing with medically-trained National Guard, requiring high quality masks and testing for visitors, and providing access to PPE. In the Governor’s State of the State and Executive Budget, she proposed a number of new initiatives to support older New Yorkers, including investments in nursing homes to improve quality of care for residents, establishing clear certification criteria for ‘memory care,’ supporting innovative nursing home models like the Green House model, combating social isolation and abuse of older residents, and strengthening the long-term care ombudsman program. We will work with the legislature and advocates on these priorities to ensure the health and well-being of aging New Yorkers during the legislative session."

The Health Commissioner’s Office released this statement:

"While the New York State Department of Health does not comment on proposed legislation, we are committed to protecting nursing home residents during this pandemic which includes supporting the vaccination and booster doses for residents and staff, ensuring facilities adhere to strong infection control measures and issuing guidance on nursing home visitation. These steps are working, as evidenced by the decrease is cases among nursing home residents."