Gounardes, Assemblymember Kim introduce nursing home legislation

May 13, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Gounardes, Assemblymember Kim introduce nursing home legislation
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In the wake of a devastating flood of nursing home deaths across the country, State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Ron Kim announced on Monday, May 11 that they will introduce new nursing home legislation.

The proposed law would apply specifically to the administration of residential healthcare facilities during state disaster emergencies relating to a disease outbreak.

According to Gounardes, the legislation responds to some of the most devastating stories that have come out of nursing homes and from constituents both in his district and in Kim’s district in Queens. 

"This legislation arose from devastating situations in our own neighborhoods,” Gounardes told this paper. “My team has heard from family members who have been heartbroken by how their loved ones were treated. We must act to prevent this from ever happening again."

The bill involves very specific standards for how nursing homes have to behave and the information they must release to families and the state. Also, the legislation would require DOH takeover if there are a high number of deaths and continued mismanagement in a facility.

Sixteen assemblymembers co-sponsored the legislation. The proposal also has AARP support.

It mandates that such facilities:

  • Must maintain adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and daily record-keeping of their usage
  • Give timely and consistent communication with residents and their loved ones about any suspected or confirmed infections
  • Inform residents of alternative care options, such as home care, that they may pursue; if they opt for such alternatives, the Department of Health will allocate the appropriations needed to secure them
  • Ensure residents and loved ones can communicate at least three times daily
  • To transfer, with DOH support, any COVID-19 patients and find alternative options for those residents and their family members.
  • The bill requires all facilities to provide detailed daily reports to the state and local health departments on potential disease spread on their premises. For any mismanaged facilities, the state Department of Health commissioner would also have the authority to appoint temporary operators, who would assume operational control and responsibility.

"As the devastation of what has happened in our nursing homes has become clear, many of us are reeling with anger, frustration and deep sadness,” Gounardes said. “The most important thing is that we act to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again. This bill would guarantee that the Department of Health maintains transparency, communication and safety measures so families know their loved ones are safe. You can evaluate a society by how we treat our most vulnerable members, and by that standard, this was a terrible failure. We must do better."

"Our community continues to reel from anger and disbelief at the negligence and disregard shown on this issue, and the irreparable harm done to nursing home residents in our community, throughout New York, and across America,” said Kim, also a member of the New York State Assembly Health Committee. “When I first found out and confronted the Department of Health on this scandal, it was clear that we were not doing nearly enough to protect some of our most vulnerable loved ones in the midst of this pandemic. This legislation, which I immediately started after these problems came to light, may not bring back the countless New Yorkers who died preventable deaths, but it is the bare minimum we can and must do to prevent future tragedies.”

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