Senior advisers to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have threatened to fine or revoke the licenses of nursing home administrators for alleged malpractice regarding COVID-19 vaccinations based on data which, according to those responsible, were found to be inaccurate, according to a report released on Monday.
The incident occurred during a “heated emergency call” between New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Cuomo’s special advocate Beth Garvey, and association officials retirement homes in the state, The New York Post reported. During the call, Zucker and Garvey reportedly picked up on those responsible as data showed hundreds of institutions had failed to secure the COVID-19 vaccine shipments they had previously requested.
“What are my options here?” Zucker said in a recording of the meeting obtained by The Post. “There is the option of fines. There is the option of law enforcement. There is the option of shaming everyone and saying, ‘I can’t believe people don’t do that. ‘”
“I’m not trying to be difficult with all of you,” Zucker added. “But at the end of the day, they are residents of these nursing homes and vaccines are set aside for them, and nursing home administrators have to pick them up and put them in the arms of these residents, as well as Staff. shy is simply irresponsible. “
Garvey said it was “absolute malpractice” that the establishments did not collect their vaccine shipments and added that “every medical director of these establishments should feel a personal risk to their medical licenses.”
“All options are on the table, in terms of issuing emergency regulations, issuing fines and penalties,” she added. “We literally bent over backwards to see if nursing homes would do the right thing. I think our only recourse at this point is to try to clean it up, because we have a responsibility.
Sources who participated in the call told the Post that Zucker and Garvey based their criticism on state data that misrepresented the situation.
Some nursing home representatives said they had submitted the required data on the number of unvaccinated residents or staff in their facilities, but did not intend the state to side the vaccine doses. Others said they obtained vaccines from other partners or did not need state supplies.
New York State Department of Health spokesperson Gary Holmes rebuffed the report’s characterization of the appeal. State officials, including Zucker, have made repeated efforts to contact nursing homes about stepping up their vaccination efforts in recent weeks, he said.
“The reality is that some nursing homes still fail to protect New Yorkers. Here are the facts: After the federal nursing home vaccination program ended, the state made it clear to nursing homes that it had an obligation to vaccinate residents and staff in the future and offered to reserve specific allowances for them, ”said Holmes.
“We made repeated calls, determined if they could do the injections themselves or if they needed a third-party provider, and we asked them daily for 6.5 weeks how many doses they needed.” , he added. “For some inexplicable reason, hundreds of nursing homes are leaving vaccine doses on shelves – these failures border on professional misconduct, which is why we have replaced regional hospitals to take over.”
The Cuomo administration has come under scrutiny in recent months from a statewide COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes. Earlier this year, the Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James released findings that Cuomo’s team significantly underreported the number of deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes .
Critics have targeted Cuomo over his March 25 order ordering nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients, arguing the decision may have exacerbated the spread of the virus. Cuomo has denied withholding data relating to nursing home deaths and has dismissed claims that his order made matters worse.
Federal prosecutors are now investigating how senior officials in the Cuomo administration handled the nursing home crisis. To date, neither Cuomo nor any official has been charged with wrongdoing.
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Earlier this month, multiple media reported Cuomo ordered state health officials to prioritize his own family for testing for COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic. Cuomo’s team denied the wrongdoing.
The governor has been called on to resign in recent weeks over his handling of the pandemic, along with complaints from nine women who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment or misconduct. Cuomo has maintained that he will not be stepping down.
This story has been updated.