Two members of Congress on Thursday said large numbers of nursing home patients have died from COVID-19 because five states, including New York, failed to follow guidelines established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency.
“Over 40 percent of all nursing home deaths in America happened in only five states.” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana said during a press conference with Rep. Tom Reed of New York, whose district includes the Greater Olean area. “And… just so happened to be the five states where the governors gave directions that contradicted CMS guidance every step of the way.”
Reed said at least 6,200 nursing home patients died from COVID-19 in New York state. The number does not include nursing home patients who died in hospitals.
Scalise, the ranking member on the Congressional Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said the large number of the deaths is a result of state policies in California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania that require nursing homes to admit or re-admit individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
But Gary Holmes, a spokesperson for the New York Department of Health, said the state’s policies are consistent with CMS guidance, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
“The state advised nursing homes on March 25 that they could not deny admission or readmission solely because of a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. The policy is consistent with CMS guidance, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, he said.
“However, New York State law specifically outlaws nursing homes from accepting patients they cannot care for,” Holmes said. “Specifically, Section 10 N.Y.C.R.R. Section 415.26, states that a nursing home shall accept and retain only those residents for whom it can provide adequate care – a standard that remained in place during this pandemic. Thus, nursing homes were obligated by law to decline to accept patients for whom (they) could not provide adequate care.”
Reed said the state should admit it made a mistake.
“What we should do is acknowledge the mistake, move forward together and convene whatever resources that we have, whatever necessary resources that we need, to make sure that we have designated facilities to take COVID-19 positive seniors,” he said.
In a tweet, Richard Azzopardi, the governor's senior adviser, described the congressmen’s charges as “political garbage from a bunch of craven partisan hacks.”
Reed and Scalise are Republicans. The five states they criticized all have Democratic governors.