December 6, 2022

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NY lawmakers request oversight hearing on USA TODAY Network nursing home investigation

Two state lawmakers requested a legislative oversight hearing be conducted to review findings of the USA TODAY Network New York investigation of nursing home complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, and Assemblymember Ron Kim, D-Queens, called for the hearing days after USA TODAY Network reporting revealed the outcome of more than 35,600 complaints filed against nursing homes during the pandemic’s first two years.

A strikingly high number of the complaint cases, about 96%, had been deemed unsubstantiated or remained unresolved earlier this year, the investigation found.

State Health Department inspectors determined only about 4% of complaint cases were “substantiated,” or violated health and safety standards, according to an analysis of state data obtained via public-records request. The review looked at cases between Jan. 1, 2020 and Jan. 14, 2022.

Mary Beth Delarm at the steps of the New York State Capitol on April 20, 2022. Delarm's mother, Pat Ashley died in May 2020 while in a nursing home in Rensselaer County. Due to a lack of response from politicians, Delarm has turned to advocacy seeking accountability.

Mary Beth Delarm at the steps of the New York State Capitol on April 20, 2022. Delarm’s mother, Pat Ashley died in May 2020 while in a nursing home in Rensselaer County. Due to a lack of response from politicians, Delarm has turned to advocacy seeking accountability.

The findings — which include newly reported details of each complaint filed against hundreds of nursing homes across New York — uncovered a backlog of complaints as COVID-19 ravaged nursing homes, killing more than 15,000 residents.

“These residents were among the most vulnerable when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their health and safety should have been a top priority, but time and again, the state treated them as an afterthought,” Serino said in a statement about the hearing request.

Read our investigation here: Desperate families filed nursing home complaints in New York during COVID. Thousands went unresolved

In a letter to legislative leaders, Serino noted Wednesday that lawmakers must find out how the nursing home complaints were handled and how so many could have slipped through the cracks at such a critical time.

“Families deserve answers, accountability, and most importantly, the assurance that this type of inaction will never be repeated,” she added.

Vivian Zayas of Deer Park, Long Island holds a framed montage of photos of her mother Ana Martinez May 11, 2022. Ana Martinez, 78, died in March of 2020 after contracting COVID-19 during what was to have been a temporary stay a nursing home following knee surgery. Zayas has founded Voices for Seniors, a nonprofit that advocates for residents of nursing homes and their families.

Vivian Zayas of Deer Park, Long Island holds a framed montage of photos of her mother Ana Martinez May 11, 2022. Ana Martinez, 78, died in March of 2020 after contracting COVID-19 during what was to have been a temporary stay a nursing home following knee surgery. Zayas has founded Voices for Seniors, a nonprofit that advocates for residents of nursing homes and their families.

Kim wrote on Twitter his office was also pushing for an oversight hearing on the nursing home complaints and “will continue trying to get to the bottom of this crisis.”

Both Serino and Kim have been outspoken critics of the state’s response to COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.

Meanwhile, some advocates are also calling on lawmakers to pass legislation that would establish an independent commission to investigate the state’s response to COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently indicated she would be pursuing a new investigation of the state’s entire pandemic response, but her office has yet to release details of the effort.

Serino also noted she introduced legislation in May 2020 to create a council dedicated to receiving reports of problems in nursing homes and to ensure immediate action to protect residents.

“Zero action was taken by the state to advance the idea,” she wrote on Twitter.

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David Robinson is the state health care reporter for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @DrobinsonLoHud

This article originally appeared on New York State Team: NY lawmakers seek oversight hearing on nursing home investigation