Blame shared for COVID-19 nursing home deaths
Several different reports have been released to this point regarding New York state’s response to COVID-19, specifically in nursing homes.
This week, the New York State Bar Association added another.
A task force worked for roughly a year, with the goal of taking politics out of the process and providing families who lost loved ones with some answers.
“To try to get some insight into what happened, why there were so many deaths, why they weren’t able to communicate with their loved ones and why we had such a bad outcome during the early part of the COVID crisis,” said task force member John Dalli.
An attorney, Dalli specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice litigation. He said one of the key findings of the 200-plus page report was the governor’s March 25, 2020 directive requiring nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients regardless of whether they were still positive and if that contributed to the death toll in those facilities and if keeping it in place for roughly six weeks was a mistake.
“It led to a disaster,” Dalli said. “They should have realized it within two weeks. They didn’t. It went on too long and there’s no doubt in my mind it lead to additional deaths that certainly contributed to that 15,000-plus number.”
But Dalli said there’s shared blame between the governor, the Department of Health and the nursing home operators who should have been aware the directive did not supersede public health law preventing them from admitting patients for whom they didn’t have the ability to provide adequate care.
“Basically, if they’re going to take the money to care for them, they’re making a promise that they can for them properly and keep them safe and the governor and the Department of Health were operating under that assumption when they issued the March 25 directive,” said Dalli.
At the same time, the report points out the state failed to utilize resources from the federal government like beds at the U.S.S. Comfort and the Javits Center that could have been used for nursing home patients with COVID-19.
It also concludes the state made another key mistake.
“I think the immunity that he granted nursing home owners from civil liability and lawsuits, which was fortunately revoked in April of this year, that was certainly a mistake because it disincentivized nursing home owners from having the proper staffing and providing the adequate care,” Dalli said.
Despite these findings, Dalli said any political talking point that attributes the majority of the nursing home deaths to the governor or the state is just that and not founded in reality.
He said the state Legislature made some strides this year regarding patient care in the facilities that had been lacking long before the pandemic but the report recommends more transparency about how they are spending public money.