EDITORIAL: Apologies no substitute for action on nursing home deaths

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

Apologies are important.

But without follow-up action, apologies are just empty words.

So Gov. Kathy Hochul’s emotional meeting on Tuesday with victims of the state’s nursing home policies can’t be the end, but must be the beginning, of her efforts to mitigate the damage from the state’s covid response.

In fact, if she was really sincere, the actions should have started already.

Hochul on Tuesday met with several relatives of nursing home residents who died during the covid crisis, and she apologized on behalf of the state for the policies of her predecessor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Among the Cuomo policies that contributed to the deaths of nursing home patients was one from last March that barred nursing homes from turning away coronavirus-positive patients discharged from hospitals.

Her apology was a necessary first step, and one that Cuomo’s administration was incapable of taking. (Let’s not overlook the fact that Hochul was actually lieutenant governor at the time the policy was made 19 months ago but said nothing at the time or since. But that’s for another time.)

So Hochul apologizes. Good. But what else is she willing to do?

The family members came with a list of demands.

Mostly, it was all about accountability.

First, they wanted an admission of culpability, a statement that the Health Department’s March order “led to thousands of untimely and unnecessary deaths.”

That’s a tough one because it might give ammunition to those family members suing the state over the deaths. But if Hochul is honest about the state’s role in contributing to covid-related deaths, and if she’s sincere as the state’s chief executive in taking responsibility for the state’s actions, it’s a statement she has to make.

The family members also want a bipartisan investigation, with subpoena power, into the nursing home crisis. That should have been done months ago by the Legislature. But if Hochul can support and facilitate it, then she should.

Another demand: The state should release of all the nursing home data (the accurate figures) and honor all the Freedom of Information Law requests related to that data. That’s the very least she should do.

When she took office, the governor promised transparency. But she’s been a little slow out of the gate in that regard.

It’s time for her to release all the information and honor all of the FOIL requests to give victims, their families and the public a true accounting of the damage the state did.

Finally, the family members asked for a re-audit of the nursing home victims compensation fund to compensate nursing home victims, and to create a memorial to nursing home victims.

None of those are big asks.

In fact, if the state was truly sorry for what it did, the governor should no problem honoring all of them..

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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