DOH misses deadline to develop regulations for essential caregiver law |

DOH misses deadline to develop regulations for essential caregiver law

Jennifer Lewke
Created: May 14, 2021 05:44 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The New York State Department of Health was supposed to issue guidance to nursing homes and long-term care facilities on Thursday detailing how to implement a new law that gives family members greater access to their loved ones but the deadline came and went and facilities, advocates and families are still waiting.

As News10NBC detailed earlier this week, despite a relaxing of visitation restrictions, many families are still being locked out of local nursing homes, primarily because staff members continue to test positive for COVID-19 triggering lock-downs and outbreak testing.  

The Essential Caregivers Act allows each nursing home resident, two designated caregivers/visitors that are allowed inside with proper protection even in times of crisis or in the event of an emergency. The legislation was passed and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in March. The State Department of Health had 45 days to develop the regulations and provide them to nursing homes and long-term care facilities but that deadline has passed.  

This week, a spokesman for NYSDOH would only say, “DOH is developing regulations pertaining to the Essential Caregivers legislation.”

So, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke caught up with Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D, Rochester) who sponsored the original legislation to see if he’s getting any further answers.

Jennifer Lewke - What have you heard from the Department of Health about when you're going to see these regulations?

Assemblyman Bronson - Nothing, nothing. What we got back from them was, “we're still working on the regulations… So, here we are 45 days later and nothing, nothing this is just beyond frustrating and the family members… I just can't imagine what they're going through while they're waiting for the Department of Health to get its act together.

Jennifer Lewke - Do you give them a break because it's a pandemic and they're dealing with everything? 

Assemblyman Bronson - I do not give them a break. They knew when the original bill was signed they had 45 days, they knew when we negotiated a slight change to that original bill [that's called a chapter amendment],  they knew that the 45 days was still running and would still be an obligation for them to get these regulations in place. You would think, that with everything else surrounding the nursing home situation that they would want to put 110% into getting this done but most importantly getting it done for the families and they haven't.

In a statement on Friday (two days after the regulations were due) a spokesman for DOH again tells News10NBC, “The DOH nursing home visitation guidance clearly states, “Facilities should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents—regardless of vaccination status—except for a few circumstances when visitation should be limited due to a high risk of COVID-19 transmission and compassionate care visits should be permitted at all times. DOH is developing regulations pertaining to the Essential Caregivers legislation.”

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