Think Tank Unhappy With State Nursing Home Reply, Questions Remain

Public Domain Pictures / Pixabay

ALBANY — After finally receiving State Health Department statistics on nursing home deaths in New York, the Empire Center for Public Policy is disappointed that the data is incomplete.

In responding to a court order to release to the state legislature information about COVID-19 and nursing homes, the state finally responded but, according to the Empire Center, the reply is not fully satisfactory.

In a January report, the New York Attorney General’s Office claimed the New York State Department of Health (DOH) undercounted nursing home deaths from COVID-19 by as much as 50 percent.

Lawmakers was requesting data from the DOH for several months as they awaited testimony in a health budget hearing by Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. The DOH released the information to the New York Legislature Wednesday night.

However, the Empire Center said the information released by Cuomo’s administration is still not complete and took more than five months to be released.

Empire Center officials charged that the court order was not met and that the department’s response falls short of what was requested — and therefore what Justice Kimberly O’Connor ordered.

One stance of the Center is that the records do not fully account for the deaths of some 600 residents that occurred outside of the long-term care facilities, most often in hospitals.

“The department provided a summary of those deaths, but not their dates. The department has been reporting presumed deaths inside the facilities since early May,” Center officials said. “Withholding this data appears to be a violation of Justice Kimberly O’Connor’s court order, and we will attempt to address this first with DOH.”

“Between last week’s court order and tonight’s formal response, the department posted new death totals for each facility, including hospital deaths that had previously been omitted. Those revelations increased the known death toll from about 9,000 to almost 15,000 — making clear that the pandemic’s toll on long-term care residents was much worse than the Cuomo administration previously portrayed it to be,” officials said.


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