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Families call for reform one year after controversial Cuomo nursing home order

Nursing homes
Posted at 11:00 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 23:09:35-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Janine Szczudlik's mom contracted COVID-19 in her nursing home.

"She wasn't projected to make it. And even still at that point, I could not be by her bedside. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't see her. I couldn't do any of that. The helpless feeling that I had is indescribable. I couldn't even begin to tell you or put it into words," Szczulik said.

On March 25, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order requiring nursing homes take back COVID positive patients from hospitals.

"It's an order that I believe he has worked very hard to cover up and to cover up the result of that order which was ultimately the deaths of at least 15,000," Senator Rob Ortt said.

A representative for the state said, "As the Attorney General’s report rightly points out, the March 25th Department of Health guidance was consistent with and followed Federal guidance issued by the CDC and CMS and was not a directive to accept a COVID patients if they could not otherwise provide appropriate care – a point the Attorney General’s Office found the nursing homes understood.”

Szczudlik's mom survived, but the effects of the COVID on the nursing home industry are still affecting their lives.

"Nothing like this should ever have happened in the beginning and I would really hope that going forward, everybody has learned a fortunate lesson from this and nothing like this ever happens again," Szczudlik said.

Ellen Beltz's brother has been in and out of different memory care units. She said she struggles to find out what really goes on behind closed doors.

"I hope that this really does bring to the legislature on federal and state levels the need here to really look at this industry. People are understaffed, underpaid and under-trained and doing the very best they can in a very difficult situation," Beltz said, "There's never really a clear picture. The problem here is now still not being able to go in and see what's going on on a regular basis."

Governor Cuomo announced a new bill on February 19, 2020 aimed to increase transparency and hold nursing homes accountable for misconduct. The endgame is to put patient care over profits.

"I have my suspicions about my brothers care has been, but there's no way I can prove it. I can see with my eyes he's deteriorated. I can see with my eyes he's dirty. I can see with my eyes that he's not wearing his clothes. That he's wearing a woman's shirt," Beltz said.

The Senate Majority passed the treatment protection act on Wednesday. This repeals nursing home's immunity from being held accountable for harm that occurred at facilities.

"And this is the time because it's right on everybody's mind," Beltz said.

At this point, family members said they just want to see their loved ones so they can know they're safe.

"It was almost like visiting someone in jail," Szczudlik said, "When I was getting up to leave, she had this look of confusion on her face. She just said, can I have a hug goodbye? And I couldn't. I couldn't go near her. I couldn't hug her. I couldn't kiss her."