• Julie Katz

How the New York Nursing Home debacle sheds light on a big problem.

New York's handling of the COVID crisis did not only create a problem, it uncovered a hard truth.

First the state of New York forced long term care facilities to take back COVID positive residents back into their facilities without providing the staff with adequate PPE's or staffing. Now we are learning that those residents who died in a hospital were not counted as residents of a long term care facility, making the death toll at these facilities look 50% lower than they really were. Why did Governor Cuomo do that? So he would not be criticized by his political rivals. Why is this important and what does it show us?

You may ask why it is important that these deaths were properly categorized? If the deaths were attributed to long term care facilities, the government and public would have realized the scope of the problem and provided more resources to contain the virus from spreading and killing more people. Instead, nursing homes were left to fend for themselves with little help from the government. As staff became ill and contagious people were moved back, the problem only grew.

By sending contagious residents back to their facility, the State of New York was turning them into ill equipped COVID wards. Did the people who make this decision have any idea that most long-term care facilities do not have empty wings to quarantine these residents? In addition, nursing staff is thinner than acute care facilities yet the residents/patients had acute care needs. Assuming that a long term care facility has as many resources as a hospital is ignorant. Apparently no one with knowledge of long term care was asked to weigh in on this decision.

To make matters worse, family, guardians and advocates were not allowed in facilities to see the residents. If people were, they may have discovered that so many residents were sick with COVID, not just a few. Some staff did complain on social media but they did not garner much attention from the right people. Nursing home residents were left without an advocate.

Governor Cuomo apparently put his political future ahead of doing the right thing for the sickest older adults. That not only reveals something about him potentially, but about the value we, and our leaders, place on the most vulnerable elderly. In other words, they are dispensable and their needs can and should be placed above others.

I only hope that when those in power today grow old and need long term care, that the leaders of tomorrow, unlike their predecessors, will value the humanity of their elders.

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