Montesano Calls for Nursing Homes to be allowed to Deny COVID-19 Patients to Protect Residents

A legislative column from Assemblyman Michael Montesano (R,C,I-Glen Head)

Recently, I have shown my support of a bill which would help provide the proper care and communication for those in nursing homes during disease outbreaks. During this time when our senior population is most vulnerable, it is our duty to protect them as best we can. Nursing home employees have spoken out about struggling to secure enough personal protective equipment (PPE), along with tests for residents and workers to help with facilities which are already under-staffed.

It has now come to light that the number of deaths in nursing homes is much higher than we originally thought. On Long Island alone 1,050 residents in nursing homes have died from COVID-19 as of May 5. That is 70 percent more than what was previously reported and completely unacceptable when we are supposed to be protecting the vulnerable portion of the population. This number includes those who are believed to have died before they could be officially diagnosed with the virus but, unfortunately, doesn’t include those who were transferred from nursing homes to hospitals before passing away, so the number is most likely even higher.

One of the biggest issues that has been brought to our attention is a NYS Department of Health order passed on March 25 which requires nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients who have been discharged from hospitals and are not allowed to require testing before admission or re-admission. Nursing home employees have said hospitals are recommending infected patients to their facilities on almost a daily basis. If they have a bed available, according to the order, they are required to take them in, thus putting other residents and employees in danger. What is even more outrageous is that when Gov. Cuomo was asked about this order, he denied knowing about the policy or that the number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 has risen.

This is exactly the kind of thoughtless legislation that happens when one person is given too much power. Many of us spoke up against this portion of the bill that gave the governor this power but in order to get New Yorkers the funds necessary to combat this pandemic we were forced to give it to him due to the two being wrapped into one bill. I have written a letter, calling for the governor to right this wrong by not requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients or those suspected to be positive without the proper testing to confirm they are negative. Our nation has already suffered enough, we can do this to protect our elderly as this is an order which should have never happened in the first place.