Letter Also Calls for Redirecting More Spending on Resident Care, Improving Infection Control, Allowing Safe In-Person Visits
ALBANY, N.Y.— In the wake of the New York State Attorney General’s recent revelations about sky-high deaths and dangerous conditions in New York’s nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading resident and worker advocates are calling on State leaders to prioritize nursing home reform in the 2021-22 State Budget.
AARP New York, healthcare workers union 1199SEIU and The Long Term Care Community Coalition sent a joint letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie urging enactment of reforms to:
- Ensure nursing homes provide sufficient hours of care to residents.
- Require facilities spend a “significant portion” of their revenue on resident care and address the way some owners divert taxpayer dollars toward excessive profits through complicated financial arrangements between multiple corporations.
- Improve infection control enforcement, and;
- Ensure families are able to effectively advocate for their loved ones in nursing homes and visit them safely.
“Our neighboring states of New Jersey and Massachusetts have already passed and begun to implement such reform,” the letter states. “Taken together, these reforms would improve the quality of care for our state’s vulnerable nursing home residents. They would also help ensure that facilities are much better prepared for another emergency like the current pandemic.”
“If ever there was a time and an opportunity to improve conditions for New York’s nursing home residents and staff, it’s now,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “The Attorney General’s report identified serious problems that continue plaguing our loved ones and those who care for them - and provided a great roadmap to stop this ongoing tragedy. The State Budget process is the most effective way for the State to do so.”
“New York’s nursing home residents, their families, and the workers that care for them know firsthand the poor conditions in too many of our state’s facilities, and the ways in which for-profit owners skimp on needed resources,” said Milly Silva, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU’s Nursing Home Division. “As the union that represents 65,000 certified nursing assistants, nurses, therapists and support staff in nursing homes from the tip of Long Island to the North Country to Niagara Falls, we are proud to join with AARP and the Long Term Care Community Coalition to call for the Legislature and the Governor to pass comprehensive nursing home reform in this year’s state budget. We are heartened by the progress that has already been made toward that goal, and we encourage all parties to come to the table to address this crisis and improve the quality of care for residents and the quality of jobs for dedicated staff.”
“The pandemic has exposed longstanding failures to ensure that New York families can count on their nursing homes for safety and treatment with dignity,” said Richard J. Mollot, Executive Director of The Long Term Care Community Coalition. “Now is the time for bold action to ensure a better life for both current and future residents.”
Below is the full letter.
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February 10, 2021
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Honorable Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Majority Leader, New York State Senate
Honorable Carl Heastie, Speaker, New York State Assembly
New York State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie,
We know that you, and all New Yorkers, mourn the devastating loss of life in our state’s nursing homes during this pandemic and are very concerned about the ongoing challenges nursing home residents and their families face. The experience of this past year has also exposed serious, underlying quality problems in the industry.
The recent report released by Attorney General Letitia James on nursing homes’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the way in which these deficiencies, including in hours of care, worsened the pandemic’s impact on residents and staff.
We join together on behalf of over 2 million New Yorkers, including nursing home residents, their family members and nursing home staff, to request that you prioritize nursing home reform in this year’s budget process. Our neighboring states of New Jersey and Massachusetts have already passed and begun to implement such reform.
To be effective in improving quality of care, a reform package must ensure nursing homes provide sufficient hours of care to residents. Our state ranks 29th in the number of total care hours residents receive per day, according to The Long Term Care Community Coalition.
The package must also require facilities to spend a significant portion of their revenue on resident care and address the way some owners divert taxpayer dollars toward excessive profits through complicated financial arrangements between multiple corporations. Coupled with this, it should increase transparency regarding ownership transactions and prevent poor-performing owners from purchasing more facilities.
Any reform package must improve infection control enforcement and ensure that families are able to effectively advocate for their loved ones in nursing homes and visit them safely. Until in-person, indoor visitation fully resumes facilities must make available and facilitate regular opportunities for virtual, outdoor (when feasible and safe) and compassionate care visitation.
Taken together, these reforms would improve the quality of care for our state’s vulnerable nursing home residents. They would also help ensure that facilities are much better prepared for another emergency like the current pandemic.
We are grateful for the actions you have already taken to address this issue and look forward to working with all of you to advance legislation through the budget to address this crisis. We owe nothing less to those we have lost this year.
AARP New York
Executive Vice President
1199SEIU -United Healthcare Workers East
Long Term Care Community Coalition