Politicians and residents want nursing homes to be held accountable for COVID-19 deaths

wards that have only beds and wheelchairs without sick people in a depressed atmosphere
Photo via Getty Images

With the highest amount of nursing home COVID-19 deaths in the country, New Yorkers are angry, upset and want people to be held accountable.

On June 12,  Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblyman Ron Kim (Queens)  held an emotional virtual town hall, where they discussed their legislation that would repeal an amendment in the state budget that gives blanket corporate immunity to nursing home owners, shareholders and trustees during the COVID-19 pandemic and families of COVID-19 victims who died in nursing homes spoke about the tragedies.

Repealing the amendment will enable families to pursue a legal pathway that could uncover evidence of poor care. To date, over 5,600 families have lost a loved one living in a nursing home due to COVID-19.

Biaggi could not believe the casualties that took place in nursing homes. She stressed that repealing this provision is crucial.

“Nursing homes are a place where people live,” Biaggi said. “When we send loved ones to a nursing home we expect the highest level of care. The people in charge of managing them need to be held responsible.”

Kim shared her concerns and felt the truth must be exposed. According to Kim, “nursing homes have a get out of jail free card right now.” He noted that people should be able to file claims against nursing homes.

“What happened,” Kim said. “Who was monitoring our loved ones? Where are the medical records?”

Livia Machin and Traci Ann Alvino were among the people who spoke about family members they lost to COVID-19 living at nursing homes. Both women wept and were quite emotional as they told their stories.

Machin’s father Alfredo Munoz was in a facility in Queens for three years with dementia. When COVID-19 hit the nursing home it did not allow visitors.

“We were at a loss,” she explained. “We tried to communicate with them and it was very difficult to get in contact with them.”

There were video calls, but talking to a person with dementia virtually was not the same. On April 8, they were finally able to see him, but three days later he passed away. The death certificate says “presumed COVID-19.”

A screenshot of the town hall about nursing home deaths during COVID-19.Courtesy of screenshot

Machin questioned how could a place that was supposed to keep her dad safe let this happen, especially when the nursing home assured her he would be okay.

“I couldn’t understand why nobody called me,” she exclaimed. “I know in my heart of hearts he died of COVID-19. I couldn’t have a funeral for my father and it kills me inside.”

She cremated her father on May 18.

Alvino could not believe what her father Daniel, 77, went through. Daniel was her “superhero and pride of the family.”

He was a healthy guy and had just retired after 33 years as a football referee. But he had recent neck surgery and went to a facility in Long Island for rehab.

She recalled that on March 23, one person had COVID-19 at the home, yet the staff told her he was in no danger.

“They assured us everything would be fine,” Alvino said. “We opted to leave him and trusted them.”

However, things were not safe. Daniel developed a fever and they gave him oxygen hoping it would help him. On March 30, he was released to Alvino in terrible condition with ulcers all over his body.

As he walked down the driveway, he collapsed and begged his daughter not to take him back to the home. The facility released him with COVID-19.

“They did not test him, they did not feed him and they did not tell us he was a COVID-19 suspect,” she said.

On April 1, she called the emergency room and discovered her father had the coronavirus and eventually the entire family did. Everyone survived, but her father unfortunately did not make it.

While he didn’t die in the nursing home, she blamed the nursing home for his untimely death and said that they need to be held accountable.

“It destroyed all our lives,” Alvino remarked. “My dad and people like him aren’t counted in the nursing home logs. What Governor Cuomo has done to us families is another punch in our stomach. I don’t know how anyone can be so cruel.”

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