By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District
My office has heard from numerous nursing home residents and their families about serious concerns they have regarding nursing homes and COVID-19. While I recognize the significant risks and difficult challenges confronting the state as a result of this public health crisis, it is important that we continue to focus on these facilities.
I recently expressed the shared concerns, which included the mental, emotional and physical effect that lockdowns and a lack of visitation can have on residents, to state Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. I also urged Commissioner Zucker to prioritize testing, ensure that necessary staffing is available at nursing homes and to expand visitation opportunities, which has been done at hospitals and group homes in the state.
We must continue to bring nursing home-related concerns and issues to the attention of the administration, which is something that I have done during the current public health crisis. This effort has included calling on the Governor to permit doctors to prescribe potentially life-saving, experimental coronavirus drugs and to stop COVID-19 positive patients from being readmitted to homes where no coronavirus cases exist. While the policy related to readmitting patients was eventually reversed, more than 6,000 deaths have occurred in state-regulated nursing homes as a result of COVID-19.
I will continue to advocate on the behalf of the state’s most vulnerable populations, including our nursing home residents. New York residents have made sacrifices to stop the spread of COVID-19 by not visiting their spouses, parents and grandparents. They deserve to have the peace of mind that their loved ones are receiving the care they deserve during this difficult time.
In the meantime, I continue to push legislation I have introduced that would provide for additional comfort and safety for those in a nursing home. The bill (S3786) would allow for a patient to have an electronic monitoring device, including Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, installed in his or her room at the expense of the individual or their family. The legislation would provide nursing home residents with another option that can help them to stay connected with loved ones at a time when in-person visitation is not permitted.
The legislation is in the Senate’s Health Committee.