In 2018, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a competitive primary challenge. At a time when his campaign badly needed cash, the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), a powerful healthcare lobbying group, came through with a $1.25 million donation to the New York State Democratic Committee which supported Cuomo’s reelection. (As the governor, he essentially controlled the state DNC.) This donation was substantially greater than prior year contributions and was among the largest to the New York State Democratic Party for the year. Three of the group’s top officials made additional donations totaling $150,000 between 2015-2018.
The wheel has turned and today, it is the GNYHA that needs a little help from their friends and Cuomo did not disappoint. The Guardian reports that, quietly slipped into last month’s budget by Cuomo’s aides, was legislation which “shields hospital and nursing home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.”
The Guardian article says this provision created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for healthcare industry officials, according to legal experts.
The budget provision states that officials “shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing healthcare services” during the pandemic.
The Guardian reports that critics are now trying to repeal that provision amid concerns that it removed a deterrent against nursing homes and hospital corporations cutting corners in the treatment of coronavirus patients. But the measures were drafted and aggressively advocated for by the group, the outlet says.
In an emailed statement to The Guardian, Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi wrote:
This pandemic remains an unprecedented public health crisis and we had to realign New York’s entire healthcare system, using every type of facility to prepare for the surge, and recruiting more than 96,000 volunteers – 25,000 from out of state, to help fight this virus. These volunteers are good samaritans and what was passed by 111 members of the legislature was an expansion of the existing Good Samaritan Law to apply to the emergency that coronavirus created. If we had not done this, these volunteers wouldn’t have been accepted and we never would have had enough frontline healthcare workers.
This law was intended to increase capacity and provide quality care, and any suggestion otherwise is simply outrageous.
This report comes as Cuomo faces criticism for his March 25 order which required nursing homes to readmit COVID-19 patients who had been discharged from hospitals. Many blame this order for the disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths which have occurred in nursing homes throughout the state. Last week, The Associated Press reported that 4,300 patients infected with the virus had been readmitted to nursing homes. Approximately one third of New York State’s total reported coronavirus deaths have occurred in nursing homes. The total number of deaths in the state as of 4 pm EST on Wednesday, as per Worldometers.com, stands at 29,529, accounting for nearly 30% of all U.S. deaths.
Needless to say, the press is no longer fawning all over Cuomo as they did at the beginning of the pandemic. The calls for him to replace Joe Biden as the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee have stopped.
On May 10, the March order was deleted and replaced by a new one which states that nursing homes are not required to readmit patients unless they have tested negative for COVID-19.
He literally did not let them refuse. pic.twitter.com/rkmTliKrzm
— Freydeaux Cuomo (@TakeJapper1) May 27, 2020
Cuomo has tried to shift blame for the nursing home deaths to President Trump claiming that the state was merely following guidelines issued by his administration.
Last weekend, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor and Cuomo’s top aide, told reporters:
The guidelines say a nursing home “can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19 … as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance.” The guidance also says “nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present.”
Not could. Should. That is President Trump’s CMS and CDC…There are over a dozen states that did the exact same thing.
Today, Cuomo is blaming the nursing homes. I suppose, why not? He’s already shielded them from liability. He told reporters, “The obligation is on the nursing home to say, ‘I can’t take a COVID-positive person. I’m too busy, I’m too crowded. I don’t have enough PPE.’ Whatever the answer is. It doesn’t even matter. If they say I can’t take the person, they can’t take the person. So, that’s how it works.”
Now he’s blaming the nursing homes for obeying HIS ORDERS! pic.twitter.com/W2YBdwhvXi
— Janice Dean (@JaniceDean) May 27, 2020
Understandably, not too many people are buying this excuse.