The New York State Assembly and Senate gave New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker plenty of chances to tell them the number of nursing home residents who have died from COVID, but all he could muster was that he’d “get back” to them. How can that be, the lawmakers wondered. As Democrat James Skoufis noted, even California has managed to share that statistic. He said it “perplexes” him that Zucker couldn’t be just as forthcoming.
The catalyst for Monday’s hearing was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home mandate back on March 25 that ordered facilities to accept COVID patients who had been discharged from hospitals. Families who have lost someone in a New York nursing home the past few months have no doubt in their mind that Cuomo’s dangerous policy put their loved ones in the grave.
Asked by the panel if he felt he was “being heard” by the state government, Long Term Care Community Coalition executive director Richard Mollot said, “no.”
How right he was. Zucker didn’t stick around to hear testimony from folks who were directly affected by the administration’s order.
Surprised (Not surprised 😠) that the New York State Department of Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker isn't sticking around to hear the family's testimonies.
— VoicesForSeniors (@Voices4Seniors) August 3, 2020
If he had stayed he would have heard some horrifying tales. One by one, witnesses explained how their loved ones had been mistreated in New York nursing homes, who were following the guidelines of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. By now most are aware that Cuomo mandated that long term care facilities accept COVID patients who had been discharged from hospitals. For Mary Beth Delarm, she hadn’t even been notified that her mom had died in one of the facilities. As she explained in her written testimony, she learned of her mom’s death by reading about it in the newspaper.
As questionable is why New York State is not demanding an external investigation on why any family member experiencing serious issues with a nursing home patient would be denied assistance from the department of health or Attorney General. For our state leaders to turn their backs from protecting citizens from neglect, abuse And death, is alarm for reform from the top lawmakers down to the individual employee. Major news stories appeared on Diamond Hill and other failing homes disgusting conditions and poor patient care pre-Existing and ongoing Covid. As the nursing home failed to communicate with me on my mom’s condition throughout Covid, I watched fatalities rise on the news, gleaning if my mom could be one affected. Five days after the fact I learned from the newspaper my mother had died. It was tragic. Not only was I not informed of her death but That my mom was cremated within 24 hrs without being tested for Covid is astonishing. The failure to obtain actual numbers of Covid cases without testing patients and instead labeling death certificates as ‘natural causes’ is unacceptable.
She, like so many other witnesses, don’t believe the Cuomo administration when they say they don’t know the actual number of nursing home deaths.
“An external investigation should be done as to why State would accept this, as they’ve excepted so much of the abhorrent Mal treatment to patients,” Delarm said. “Covid related infections and death numbers noted by New York State from any hospital or nursing home or health assisted facility are obviously higher. Much higher. I’m hearing from authorities they’re thinking close to 20,000.”
A group of siblings had a similarly tragic story to share. NYPD detectives Haydee Pabey and Aida Pabey, along with their brother Sammy Pabey, an NYC Corrections Officer, are convinced that “nursing home negligence” and Gov. Cuomo’s nursing home mandate are to blame for their mother’s death.
“Even with our combined 48 plus years of experience and in dealing with different types of tragedies, we could not help save our mother, Elba Pabey, from falling victim to this pandemic, from suffering of nursing home negligence, or from becoming a casualty of Governor Cuomo’s March 25 order.”
“The only communication they had with their mother was through staff who they say gave them very terse explanations of how she was doing. When they learned their mom was in grave condition, they rushed to the home but were denied entry.”
My belief is the following: My mother died because she was starved.My mother died of dehydration.My mother died because of lack of PPE, therefore, the staff never entered her room to provide care or fear of getting infectedMy mother died of COVID-19 although she was never tested so precautions were not takenMy mother died of COVID-19 because residents where not properly isolated.My mother died because proper infection-control protocols were not followed.My mother died because the nursing home accepted positive patients from the hospitals as per Governor Cuomo.My mother died alone, isolated from her family and drowning in abject misery.According to Governor Cuomo, coronavirus in a nursing home was like “fire through dry grass” and that the seniors were his top priority. He lied. He let our seniors die. He let my mother die along with 100 of her peers at Isabella.There was no obligation for Isabella Geriatric Center to maintain a high or even standard level of care, to retain proper staffing levels, to retain proper medical records, to provide adequate personal protective equipment, and to keep up with proper infection-control protocols. Immunity given to the nursing homes by Governor Cuomo resulted in the deaths of thousands of precious lives in New York State.
Another common denominator in these testimonies is a question: When will there be a real, independent investigation of how Gov. Cuomo’s mandate affected nursing home deaths in the state of New York?
The next New York nursing home hearing, this time focusing on upstate NY, will be on Monday, August 10.
Author: Cortney O’Brien