Government memo crushes Cuomo’s defense in nursing home scandal

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Gov. Cuomo has repeatedly defended his administration’s directive for nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients as the product of federal “guidance” — even though one of those government documents says only that infected seniors “can” be admitted to the facilities.

In contrast, the Health Department’s since-rescinded, March 25 memo left little wiggle room to prevent “medically stable” patients from being transferred out of hospitals to nursing homes.

“During this global health emergency, all NHs must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals to NHs,” the state directive said.

And if there was any doubt about what that meant, the following sentence was underlined: “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

But a March 13 memo from the US Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which the Health Department has cited as justification for its order — contains a Q&A on that very subject.

“When should a nursing home accept a resident who was diagnosed with COVID-19 from a hospital?” it says.

Cuomo front cover

“A nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19 and still under transmission-based Precautions for COVID-19 as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance for Transmission-Based Precautions. If a nursing home cannot, it must wait until these precautions are discontinued.”

The DOH directive — which cited an “urgent need to expand hospital capacity” — came under immediate fire from three health-care industry groups: AMDA-The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Medicine, the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. In a March 29 statement, the organizations said they were “deeply concerned” with the underlined portion of the order.

“This is a short-term and short-sighted solution that will only add to the surge in COVID-19 patients that require hospital care,” they said.

A former federal Health and Human Services official also told The Post that it was a potential recipe for disaster.

“[Cuomo] made this blanket requirement and some nursing homes may have not been prepared to have these patients and may have caused cross-contamination,” the ex-official said.

And on Thursday, a draft report by the Empire Center for Public Policy tied “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” nursing home deaths to the March 25 directive, which it said is “associated with more than one in six of 5,780 nursing home deaths statewide be-tween late March and early May.”

A day earlier, Cuomo vehemently defended the policy, saying, “My health experts don’t believe it was wrong” and that if they did, “I would sue the federal government for malpractice.”

He stood by the policy again Friday, but at neither time ex-plained why he rescinded it under fire on May 10 and instead ordered that anyone being admitted to a nursing home had to first test negative for the coronavirus.

Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, who issued the March 25 directive, cited the March 13 Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidance during Friday’s news conference.

He inexplicably quoted a portion that says, “Nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COV-ID-19 was/is present.” Zucker went on to refer to the part that says nursing homes “can” accept infected patients, noting that the need to follow “transmission-based precautions” was “very important.”

Zucker further read aloud from a March 23 guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying, “The COVID-19 patients from hospitals should go to the facility with the ability to adhere to infection prevention and control recommendations for care of COVID-19 patients.”

“Preferably patients would be placed at a facility that has al-ready cared for COVID-19 cases,” he added.

Zucker noted that when he issued his order, the state was “running out of ICU space” because hospitalizations were “doubling every three days.”

“With the facts that we had at that moment in time, it was the correct decision at that moment in time,” he said.

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