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Nursing home COVID-19 reporting not transparent enough for Erie County Legislature

Nursing home COVID-19 reporting not transparent enough for Erie County Legislature
Posted at 10:50 AM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 10:50:45-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Health and Human Services committee is pushing for more transparency when it comes to nursing home deaths.

Legislator Lisa Chimera, who chairs the committee said she wants two things: family members to be notified faster, and numbers released to the public.

Some nursing homes have said they cannot release the number of deaths related to COVID-19 because of HIPAA laws, but the New York Department of Health says that is not true and released the numbers to us for counties.

As of April 13, there have been 36 deaths in Erie County nursing homes and adult care facilities.

Chimera wants the State health department, who oversees enforcing the reporting of deaths, to wark more closely with local departments of health to distribute data faster.

The Department of Health released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News:

“We've said from the start that protecting our most vulnerable populations including people in nursing homes is our top priority and that's why the State acted quickly and aggressively to issue guidance specifically for these facilities on testing, infection control, environmental cleaning, staffing, visitation, admission, readmission, and outreach to residents and families. The Department will continue to work with administrators of private and county nursing homes to do everything possible to protect the health, well-being and privacy of the residents who call these facilities home.”

Here is the specific guidance NYSDOH released to nursing homes in regards to notifying families.

New Yorkers who have a complaint or concern about a nursing home should contact the Centralized Complaint Intake directly at 1-888-201-4563, so appropriate action can be taken. All complaints are reviewed and kept confidential.

Individual nursing home inspections from March 1, 2016 – Feb. 29, 2020, which includes all surveillance activity that results in a citation are posted for the public on the Department’s Nursing Home Profiles website.