Audit of New York Nursing Homes Finds Them Unprepared for Future Disease Outbreaks

A recent audit by the New York Comptroller’s Office revealed that the state’s nursing homes are still unprepared for another pandemic or infectious disease outbreak, more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The audit, led by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, found that while the state health department has made some improvements since the height of the pandemic, there is still significant work needed due to a decade of neglect in health department funding and staffing.

“Last year, my office examined the extent to which residents in New York’s nursing homes were not adequately protected and the state’s shortfalls in managing the outbreak. Our follow-up review shows limited progress in fixing all that went wrong,” DiNapoli said.


DiNapoli emphasized that mistakes were made during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to thousands of nursing home deaths and contributing to the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The audit indicated that the health department is not fully utilizing infection control data to detect emerging infectious diseases, and data collection from nursing homes is still inaccurate and incomplete.

Accurate reporting of residents’ deaths became a major issue during the pandemic, with accusations that the Cuomo administration had underreported deaths by 50%.

The initial audit, from March 2022, revealed the state’s lack of preparedness for infectious disease outbreaks and persistent underinvestment in public health. The follow-up report highlighted incomplete implementation of recommendations, including the need for improved infection control data utilization, guidance for accurate data submission, reliability of publicly reported data, and enhanced internal controls.


Out of four recommendations, one was fully implemented, one partially implemented, and two remained unaddressed. Notably, the Department of Health (DOH) made some improvements in data quality but failed to fully utilize infection control data. Guidance for correct data submission and support for maintaining data quality were not implemented, leading to potential inaccuracies. The reliability of publicly reported data remains a concern due to discrepancies found in testing.

According to the state comptroller’s office, the DOH did implement a needs assessment, requesting 74 new staff positions, with 55 currently filled. The Governor partially implemented the recommendation to assess the internal control environment and took steps to improve transparency, communication, and leadership restructuring at DOH. However, detailed information supporting the assessment was not provided.

A separate independent review, conducted by an outside contractor is underway to evaluate the state’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This review aims to provide more answers to families and enhance accountability once made public.

“Much more work must be done to address problems that still exist to this day. We have to learn from past mistakes, or we risk repeating them,” DiNapoli said.

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