New NYS DOH commissioner says nursing home inspections will be a priority

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Many of us have loved ones in nursing homes and we want them to be getting the best care possible in the best conditions possible.

Over the last few years, News10NBC has done a lot of reporting on facilities that don’t always meet those expectations. So, when the new commissioner of the New York State Department of Health was in Rochester, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke went to speak with him about stepping up the inspection process. 

The NYS DOH is required to inspect every nursing home in the state at least once a year and then again anytime someone files a complaint. The New Health Commissioner says he’s lost inspectors over the course of the last few years but is working to replace them to keep up with that mandate.

Dr. James McDonald – “As someone who has their own mom in a nursing home, I visit often and I think it’s really important, I think it’s very important for family members to be there for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which it’s great to see our loved ones but if there is a problem, you can let people know about it.”

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC – “I think there’s a lot of frustration from folks who say ‘I complained to the state, they sent someone, they fixed the problem that time because the state was looking and then they repeat the behavior over and over again.’ So, the new folks that you’re training, are you training them to do anything different, anything more extensive? Anything more than what has been done in the past?

Dr. James McDonald – “So, the training isn’t the problem, the training is the training.  Our inspectors are quite good at their jobs to keep in mind if a nursing home does have a problem that we see again that the consequences may be more severe.  We’ve actually levied about $4.2 million dollars’ worth of fines to nursing homes since 2020.”

Jennifer Lewke – “Often, it can take many months for families to learn about issues or violations at their loved ones’ nursing home, do you think that there is some room for improvement there?”

Dr. James McDonald – “One of things we try to do is be as transparent as possible but our investigations do take time and it’s important for us to be thorough so, I can always look at our process and what we’re doing but we really do try to do our investigations thoroughly, and thorough investigations do take time.”