New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested Monday that “money” was partly to blame for nursing homes failing to turn away coronavirus patients that they could not care for — after a state directive requiring them to take those patients.
Cuomo has come under increasing criticism for a March 25 directive requiring nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients. The directive read, in part (original emphasis): “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
The policy is being scrutinized more closely as some 25% of the state’s fatalities from coronavirus have occurred in nursing homes.
Critics argue that the state should not have put coronavirus patients in facilities housing the elderly, who are the most vulnerable to the illness. New Jersey and California have similar policies.
Cuomo has insisted that it is the nursing homes’ responsibility to refer patients to the state department of health, or to other facilities, if they cannot care for those patients.
He reiterated that argument on Monday, and also took issue with a story in the New York Post about a nursing home in Brooklyn, the Cobble Hill Health Center, which told the state in early April that it could not handle coronavirus patients, but was refused permission to transfer them to facilities at the Jacob Javits Center or the USNS Comfort, both set up by the federal government.
The Post reported:
The CEO of a hard-hit Brooklyn nursing home, where 55 patients have died from the coronavirus, told The Post last week that he’d been warning state Health Department officials for weeks he had staffing and equipment issues — yet received little help.
“There is no way for us to prevent the spread under these conditions,’’ the head of the Cobble Hill Health Center, Donny Tuchman, wrote in an e-mail to the department on April 8.
He said he asked to move some patients to the makeshift wards at Manhattan’s Javits Center and aboard the city-docked USNS Comfort amid the pandemic, only to be told those two spots were receiving only patients from hospitals.
“I made specific requests to transfer patients, and it didn’t happen,’’ Tuchman told The Post. “There weren’t options.”
Gov. Cuomo called the story “a bit misleading,” saying: “The Comfort is a federal facility, it doesn’t take transfers from nursing homes, it only takes transfers from hospitals. That’s why the Comfort wouldn’t take a transfer from a nursing home. Because the specific protocol on that specific ship said that people have to come from a hospital.”
He added: “You can’t refer from the nursing home to the Comfort. You can’t refer from a nursing home to the Marriott Hotel, you can’t refer to the Hilton. Yeah, I know. But that nursing home can call any other facilty, or can call the Department of Health, and the Department of Health will take that person and find a facility.”
Cuomo added: “Who cares about just that ship, if the point is that nursing home should have referred that patient, and should have told the Department of Health, ‘I can’t handle these patients.'”
He added that nursing homes knew they could lose “money” if they rejected patients, so they had an incentive to take coronavirus patients even if they could not care for them without endangering other patients.
“Whatever reason they want, they call the Department of Health, and say, ‘You take Bernadette. I can’t handle her. And the Department of Health takes [her]. Now, when the Department of Health takes Bernadette, they no longer get paid for Bernadette. Oh! Money.”
Cuomo said that nursing homes were allowed to transfer coronavirus patients back to hospitals if they themselves could not care for them, but he claimed that there were no cases in which nursing homes had done so.
Asked whether nursing homes feared scrutiny from state regulators if they rejected coronavirus patients, Cuomo said that the reality was contrary: that nursing homes that could not provide adequate care faced “scrutiny if they don’t do that.”
The governor was later asked whether he was saying that nursing homes cared for profits more than for patients’ welfare.
“No. Not at all,” Cuomo said.
He also said that the state had several COVID-only facilities that were available as alternatives.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.