Audit reveals nursing homes hindered by state agency’s poor response

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — An audit released Tuesday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli found that the state Department of Health (DOH) was unprepared to respond to infectious disease outbreaks at nursing homes—even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York.

The audit revealed a persistent lack of funding for public health over the last decade, forcing the DOH to operate without critical information systems and staff that could have helped limit the spread of COVID-19 at nursing homes.

News10NBC has previously reported on the lack of staffing in nursing homes.

State auditors also found that the DOH didn’t provide the public with accurate death counts, and the actual number of nursing home residents who died is still uncertain.

“The pandemic was devastating and deadly for New Yorkers living in nursing homes. Families have a right to know if their loved one’s COVID-19 death was counted, but many still don’t have answers from the state Department of Health,” DiNapoli said.

In comparison to other states, New York significantly trailed in developing strategies to stop infections and survey nursing homes effectively.

“Our audit findings are extremely troubling. The public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts when New Yorkers deserved the truth. The pandemic is not over, and I am hopeful the current administration will make changes to improve accountability and protect lives. An important step would be for DOH to provide the families who lost loved ones with answers as to the actual number of nursing homes residents who died. These families are still grieving, and they deserve no less,” DiNapoli said.

Lack of staffing and funding may come as no surprise, as congressional funding to fight COVID-19 may be coming to an end. The funding could have helped states with much-needed pandemic assistance, as the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Congress approved nearly a year ago has nearly been used up.

Read the full audit below (mobile users, click here):

Department of Health_ Use, Collection, And Reporting of Infection Control Data by News10NBC on Scribd