AARP Calls for Full Repeal of Legal Immunity for Nursing Homes, Independent Review, LTC Task Force to Prepare for Future

Posted on 08/04/20

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Outlines 5 Key Steps State Should Take to Legislators at Hearing on Residential Health Care Facilities and COVID-19

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York State should take five key steps to protect nursing home residents and staff and to prepare the long-term care system for a potential second wave of the current pandemic and future health emergencies, AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel told state lawmakers today at a public hearing to examine residential health care facilities and COVID-19.

In written testimony and in an oral presentation at the virtual hearing, Finkel urged lawmakers to:

  • Fully and retroactively repeal legal immunity for nursing homes;
  • Ensure family members and loved ones can safely visit nursing home residents;
  • Create a long-term care task force;
  • Hire and train more professional staff for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program and ensure they have access to nursing homes, and;
  • Appoint an independent panel to review the state’s handling of long-term care facilities since the pandemic began.

Finkel noted that AARP, along with the Asian American Federation, Hispanic Federation, NAACP of New York, New York Urban League and 1199SEIU urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to create a long-term care task force in April.

In the absence of any such action by the Governor, Finkel noted AARP is supporting bill S8633/A10836 sponsored by Senate Aging Committee Chair Rachel May and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz to establish such a task force. The bill would examine the state of long-term care, both home-based and facility-based, and consider potential models for improvement.

Finkel said the task force should also examine staffing levels and any possible supply chain issue for personal protective equipment (PPE) in the future. The bill has passed the Senate but not the Assembly.

Not being able to visit a loved one in person at nursing homes and then not being able to communicate with them during the pandemic “has been one of the most frequent complaints we have heard from our membership” in recent months, Finkel noted.

She said that although the Governor dedicated $1 million for the technology necessary to implement a virtual visitation program, few nursing homes are actually opening up for visits, according to media reports. “This issue certainly needs more attention by the Legislature and the State to make sure families can see their loved ones as soon as possible,” she said.

Finkel noted that the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program relies on volunteers who are mostly retired and have been barred from entering nursing homes.

A bill now before the Governor would repeal legal immunity for nursing homes, but only going forward and only for non-COVID-related cases. Finkel said that although enactment of the bill would be a good step, the State should restore the rights of any family who lost – or loses - a loved one to COVID at a nursing home, especially with nursing home inspections having been suspended and family and ombudsmen barred from facilities.

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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name.  As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the world’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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You can find CDC’s latest coronavirus information at cdc.gov/coronavirus; AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.