New York has bad nursing homes

To the editor:

According to Families for Better Care’s “Nursing Home Report Card,” New York is one of 11 states receiving an “F” grade. Brian Lee, FBC’s director, said, “New York represents what’s terribly wrong with nursing home care and oversight in America.” Long Term Care Community Coalition’s latest studies indicate widespread excessive and unnecessary anti-psychotic drugging of residents of New York’s nursing homes.

LTCCC reports state failure to provide the New York State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program with the independence and support needed to protect vulnerable nursing home residents. While most states require at least minimum nursing home staffing standards, New York has no such requirements. Consequently, New York nursing homes are among the most understaffed in America, resulting in serious deficiency citations and deterioration of health conditions for which residents need quality care.

This summer, New York intends to start requiring Medicaid recipients to enroll in a private managed care plan as a prerequisite to receiving nursing home care. LTCCC is understandably concerned that such plans will contract only with nursing homes that offer the most attractive pricing, regardless of how bad they are. In fact, the New York State Department of Health is discouraging these plans from imposing any quality requirements on participating nursing homes.

To learn more about these and other nursing home abuses in our state, visit LTCCC is a nursing home reform advocacy group.

As attorney general, Andrew Cuomo claimed, “My office is watching like a hawk when it comes to the treatment and care of New York’s most vulnerable patients and will not tolerate the kind of disturbing neglect and abuse we’ve witnessed.” As governor, however, Cuomo’s lack of vigilance and leadership to improve nursing home care betrays the 107,000 residents currently in nursing homes throughout New York, and the 40 percent of New Yorkers over age 65 who will need nursing home care at some point in their lives. Nowadays, very few New York politicians are fighting vigorously for nursing home reform.

A more responsible and sensitive commitment by the “powers that be” is needed to help overcome the deprivation of a persistently ignored segment of our population.

Joel Freedman

Member, Long Term Care Community Coalition