The state of New York this weekend issued a raft of new requirements for nursing home operators amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while also seemingly reversing a controversial rule that required facilities to take coronavirus patients.
Under the new regulations, hospitals cannot discharge patients with COVID-19 to nursing homes, the New York Times reported Sunday; they instead must keep the patients or send them to dedicated coronavirus treatment facilities.
That appears to bring to an end a March order that prevented New York’s nursing homes from denying admissions solely based on COVID-19 status, a regulation that caused significant backlash from both operators and resident advocates.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, did not classify the updated guidance as a reversal, claiming that facilities were always able to decline residents for whom they could not adequately care, the Times reported.
Providers still have that option for COVID-19 cases. The governor instructed facilities to call the state health department if they do not have the capacity for coronavirus patients; the state will then direct the resident to a facility with emergency hospital beds, such as the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
The Sunday rule update also includes mandatory twice-per-week testing for all nursing home staff, as well as new personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance.
Cuomo also emphasized that operators will lose their licenses if they cannot provide adequate care — whether it’s the result of PPE shortages, staff strain, or problems with isolating COVID-19 cases, according to the Times.
“Well, that’s harsh — no, harsh is having a nursing home resident who doesn’t get the appropriate care,” Cuomo said. “That’s what’s harsh — having someone’s parent or mother or brother in a situation where they’re in a facility, they can’t even get a visitor, they’re isolated, they feel alone, and they’re not getting the appropriate care. That is what is harsh.”
New York has seen thousands of coronavirus deaths in its nursing homes, and the updated regulations mark the latest attempt by the Cuomo administration to increase oversight. The governor and attorney general Letitia James at the end of April announced a sweeping investigation into long-term care facilities, with fines of $10,000 per violation — as well as the potential loss of licensure.