After horrific toll, there’s hope for nursing homes in New York

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Dr. Howard Zucker, the Health Commissioner, a man comfortable with deciding who lives and who dies, is the official responsible for putting Covid -19 positive patients into vulnerable nursing homes and long term care facilities in New York. The death toll in those homes is close to 6,000.

Why has the death toll been so high? At least part of the blame has rest with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Zucker. And Cuomo’s latest move is a virtual admission of guilt. 

A directive was issued on March 25th by Zucker forbidding nursing homes to refuse patients that test positive for COVID-19. At the time, the coronavirus models predicted that New York’s health care system would be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and there wouldn’t be enough ventilators for everyone that needed them.

This is the same Howard Zucker that determined that New York would not have enough ventilators in the case of a pandemic back in 2015, but put Governor Andrew Cuomo at ease, saying that even if they did have enough, they would not have enough people to operate them.

Deciding who will live and who will die

That line of reasoning then led to Zucker’s ventilator hierarchy which prioritized the use of ventilators in the case of a pandemic. Only the strongest would be given ventilators, while those less likely to survive would be given palliative care.

Firstly, Patients who have the highest likelihood of survival with ventilator therapy receive priority. Those who have a lower chance of survival would be given care to make them comfortable, but they would not get a ventilator.

Zucker put nursing home patients at risk

So, Zucker is behind the order to put COVID positive patients back into nursing homes. As Governor Cuomo was insisting that he wants to do everything possible to protect the most vulnerable, Zucker made sure the coronavirus was being sent into the nursing homes. The results should surprise no one. Almost 6,000 nursing home patients have died of the virus. It would be hard to design a better way to put those vulnerable folks more at risk.

Worse, while COVID-19 positive patients were being sent into nursing homes, the loved ones of the residents of those homes were being locked out for fear of spreading the disease. Many nursing home residents died alone because their family was not allowed in to see them. I doubt the families realized that COVID positive patients were being put into the nursing homes.

Anyone who has had a relative in a nursing home knows that family visits are important to the well-being of nursing home patients as family members can advocate for their loved ones and look out for their interests. No family visits put patients at risk, too.

Cuomo rescinds order

Finally, after a number of stories covering the shocking number of deaths in nursing homes in New York, Governor Cuomo has changed the rules regarding COVID-19 and nursing homes.

Hospitals cannot release patients to nursing homes in New York unless the patient tests negative for the virus. We’re just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after hospital visit. Period… If there’s any issue, the resident must be referred to the department of health which will find alternative care.

Watch this compelling story of one nursing home resident claimed by the coronavirus and his family:

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