Accountability for nursing homes implicated in the deaths of New York’s elderly population from the coronavirus is falling short, according to aides of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo’s secretary Melissa DeRosa and the governor’s counsel Beth Garvey told Democratic lawmakers in a meeting last week that the administration has yet to revoke the licenses of any nursing homes facing allegations of mishandling residents during the pandemic. The aides blamed the lax enforcement on inadequate laws and “significant due process,” according to the New York Post.
“I think a lot of these nursing homes, frankly, retrospectively, even prior to COVID have been getting away with a lot for a lot of years,” DeRosa told lawmakers, according to audio of the meeting received and reviewed by the Post.
“I think that if there is any evidence that anyone was willful, or anyone was negligent in a way that goes beyond the normal course that costs people’s lives, I think that we all share the same goal, which is to hold them accountable,” DeRosa added.
Garvey told the lawmakers that attempts to hold nursing homes accountable and to revoke the licenses of those found guilty of misconduct have not moved forward much because of a lengthy due process system.
“It has not happened,” Garvey said when asked if Cuomo’s administration has revoked the license of any nursing home accused of misconduct. “We have significant due process, obviously, for those operators that we have to go through and hearings. So those are still ongoing.”
DeRosa ignited a firestorm around Cuomo’s handling of New York’s nursing homes throughout the pandemic. At another point in the meeting, the governor’s secretary said that Cuomo’s administration kept the true impact of the disease in nursing homes hidden from the public for months out of fear of federal prosecution.
“And basically, we froze,” DeRosa said. “Because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation” by then-President Trump’s Department of Justice.
Bipartisan backlash has rocked Cuomo since DeRosa’s revelation was made public last week. Republicans across the state have called for the governor’s resignation while over a dozen state Democratic lawmakers have pushed to strip the governor of his emergency powers.
“Without exception, the New York State Constitution calls for the Legislature to govern as a co-equal branch of government,” a group of Democratic senators wrote in a statement. “While COVID-19 has tested the limits of our people and state – and, early during the pandemic, required the government to restructure decision making to render rapid, necessary public health judgments – it is clear that the expanded emergency powers granted to the Governor are no longer appropriate. While the executive’s authority to issue directives is due to expire on April 30, we urge the Senate to advance and adopt a repeal as expeditiously as possible.”
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