50th Assembly District Race: Lentol, Gallagher in on Nursing Home Oversight

Emily Gallagher

During this coronavirus pandemic, scores of the dead are coming from nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. 

While it is understandable that the elderly by nature of their age likely had pre-existing conditions, there have been longstanding issues regarding notification of family, personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers and communication with government.

Thus KCP put the following question to the two candidates – incumbent Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint, Williamsburg) and challenger Emily Gallagher – running in the upcoming 50th Assembly District Democratic Primary on June 23. 

Given that the NY State Department of Health is the regulatory government body overseeing all nursing homes, what kind of legislation and/or measures concerning nursing homes would you advocate for as a state assembly or senate member?

Emily Gallagher

Emily Gallagher: “Many publicly-funded nursing homes have a reputation as bad employers, with unsafe staffing and overcrowding, poor pay, lack of professional development, and an unhealthy attitude toward death and dying. Because they rely on Medicaid reimbursements, they often don’t have the resources to develop better practices. 

“This is where we must focus our most immediate attention. We must reverse Cuomo’s terrible Medicaid cuts and add significant new funding. The less Medicaid is able to pay nursing homes, the worse the condition will likely get.

“More long term, we must prioritize nurse, nursing assistant and social worker pay and development. A comprehensive Medicare for All plan should cover long term care, and erase the private vs. public nursing home divide. We must also support the safe staffing legislation pushed by the nurses union and expand it to cover nursing homes. We must offer regular professional development for social workers and staff dealing with the issues of death and dying, and begin a cultural shift where nursing homes become places where we celebrate and care for life, not just preventing death. 

Joe Lentol (statement from his campaign): “It is more important than ever that we are supporting the members of our community in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, many of whom are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. We can take immediate action by prioritizing COVID-19 testing for the staff and patients in these institutions and providing them with personal protective equipment. 

“Nursing homes and rehabilitation centers must be prepared to carry out their duty to protect patients and communicate with patients’ loved ones, especially in the midst of a pandemic. If they don’t, Assembly Member Joe Lentol is ready to hold them accountable. 

Assembly Member Lentol will introduce legislation that: 

  • Requires the New York State Department of Health to mandate that all nursing homes and rehab centers proactively create, update, and get approved a pandemic emergency plan on a yearly basis. 
  • Allows for criminal penalties to be brought against any nursing home administrators that fail to implement a Department of Health-approved pandemic emergency plan and carry out proper infection prevention and control practices. 
  • Requires these plans to: clearly outline a communication plan so that families and guardians are updated twice per day on the patient’s condition; specifically outline how staff and their families will be protected during a pandemic; ensures that patients returning to the nursing home after hospitalization have been cleared of the infection; include protocols for saving a patient’s place in the home or center if the patient is hospitalized; and require nursing homes and rehab centers to have, at minimum, a two-month supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

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