Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday proposed a package of measures to boost accountability in the state’s nursing homes — while facing a firestorm of criticism over his own handling of COVID-19 deaths in the facilities.
Cuomo — under fire after The Post exclusively reported his top aide admitted in a private meeting with lawmakers that the administration deliberately withheld nursing-home coronavirus death data for fear of retribution from federal prosecutors — focused a chunk of his remote press briefing to laying out plans criticizing the facilities.
“We have to learn after this one, and we have to make the changes,” the Democrat declared, laying out his nursing-home “reform package,” which includes measures that would require facility operators to post owner names, lists of all Medicaid rates and contracts.
Cuomo also wants to increase the civil monetary penalty from $10,000 to $25,000 for violations of public health law, as well as firmer infection-control regulations, at the sites.
“I will not sign the budget without this nursing-home reform plan, period,” the governor said.
Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s embattled top aide, had said during last week’s private meeting that Cuomo officials wanted to tighten up laws following the high death toll, infection spread and a litany of other issues at nursing homes including personal-protective-gear shortages that cropped up over the last year of the pandemic.
More than 13,000 New York nursing-homes residents have died from the virus so far.
Cuomo officials revealed during the private meeting that not one nursing home in the state had its license to operate yanked amid COVID-19 — while just 170 violations were recorded out of 2,284 infection-control inspections.
James Clyne, the CEO of the nursing-home association LeadingAge, called Cuomo’s proposed stiffer penalties and mandates “completely punitive”.
“You’re not going to hear nursing-home operators say, `We’re not regulated enough,’ ” Clyne said.
“We don’t think the lack of penalties is the problem. The issue is the need for financial support.”
He added that the governor’s proposal mirrors recommendations of the powerful healthcare workers union 1199SEIU.
A state Senate Democrat, Mike Murphy, told The Post that lawmakers would take a look at Cuomo’s package but are way ahead of him.
“We are passing our own bills that go further,” Murphy said, noting that Senate Democrats have proposed and intend to pass a group of 10 bills early next week providing additional accountability measures for reporting death data in facilities and allowing loved ones into homes during the pandemic to assist with care.
State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office was not available for immediate comment as to whether or not he supports Cuomo’s plan.