On March 26, talk show host Mark Levin was called by a woman who told him about a New York State health order that required nursing homes to accept recovering coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals. Levin’s show is one of the most listened to radio programs and podcasts in the U.S.
The caller identified herself as Elaine and described herself as a physician and medical director in a long-term care facility in New Rochelle, a coronavirus hotspot at that time. Elaine said:
I wanted to bring your attention and to the listeners’ attention what is about to happen in New York with respect to nursing homes. The governor has ordered that all nursing homes mut accept COVID positive patients who are actually and potentially still infectious into their facilities. And this will put our residents – our long-term population at risk.
Levin – you can hear the incredulity in his voice – interrupts Elaine. Here’s the exchange:
Levin: “Wait, wait, wait… are you pulling my leg? Seriously?”
Levin: Why would you send somebody who has this virus into a population [where it] can kill people?
Elaine explained that nursing homes are “in the habit of accepting patients from hospitals to continue their care.”
Levin interrupted her again:
They may be in the habit, but they must realize now that the most vulnerable people among us are senior citizens. And nursing homes – these are people who have issues. And so I’m trying to understand, what is the point of this?
Elaine then said, “I’m looking at a directive from [NY State Governor] Andrew Cuomo and [NY Commissioner of Health] Howard Zucker, dated March 25.” She went on to read from the order, titled “Advisory: Hospital Discharges and Admissions to Nursing Homes” and sent to “Nursing Home Administrators, Directors of Nursing, Directors of Social Work, Hospital Discharge Planners.”
The order reads:
During this global health emergency, all NHs [nursing homes] must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals to NHs. Residents are deemed appropriate for return to a NH upon a determination by the hospital physician or designee that the resident is medically stable for return.
Hospital discharge planners must confirm to the NH, by telephone, that the resident is medically stable for discharge. Comprehensive discharge instructions must be provided by the hospital prior to the transport of a resident to the NH.
No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. (Emphasis in the original.)
The Wall Street Journal was one of the only mainstream media outlets to report on the New York directive.
Governor Cuomo has acknowledged that those in long-term care are especially vulnerable, saying two weeks ago that nursing homes were “a feeding frenzy for this virus.” Yet when asked about the state mandate just two days ago, he maintained that “the facilities can’t challenge a state regulation forcing them to admit patients with the contagion,” as the New York Post reported.
At the same time, Cuomo said facilities without adequate staffing and resources to handle coronavirus patients could transfer them to other facilities or “call the state Department of Health.”
But the head of a Brooklyn rest home said that he’d been “warning state Health Department officials for weeks” about “staffing and equipment issues — yet received little help.” His health care facility had 55 deaths due to the coronavirus.
Elaine, Levin’s caller, affirmed this lack of preparedness and responsiveness from government health officials, She added that sending recovering patients to long-term care facilities “will destabilize the facilities, potentially increase the flow back into hospitals, overwhelm capacity, endanger health care professionals and escalate the death rate.”
As we’ve reported here at The Daily Citizen, those most susceptible to the virus are older and have other health issues – like people in nursing homes. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence demonstrate that patients in these facilities are especially vulnerable to the disease.
A Seattle nursing home was linked to dozens of coronavirus deaths; a veterans home in Massachusetts has seen almost 70 deaths; and in a New Jersey rehabilitation center, 44 of 54 residents had the virus. Nationally, Fox News reported that almost 12,000 of the 61,100 deaths in the U.S. have been at nursing facilities.
New York isn’t the only state that’s sent COVID-19 patients to retirement homes; New Jersey follows the same protocol. California had a comparable policy, but after complaints from medical providers, “the state softened its instruction.”
Elaine told Levin she was a member of The American Medical Directors Association (AMDA) Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. That group called sending COVID-19 patients from hospitals “a recipe for disaster.”
As New York’s policy has gained more public attention, critics are calling on Cuomo to respond. Breitbart reported: “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested Monday that ‘money’ was partly to blame for nursing homes failing to turn away coronavirus patients that they could not care for.”
In response, Levin blasted Cuomo, posting on Twitter:
Cuomo has blood on his hands and is now attempting to blame the nursing homes! He’s unleashed law enforcement and his bureaucrats against the nursing homes that begged him not to send coronavirus patients into their residences. But he insisted.
Listen to Elaine’s call to The Mark Levin Show.
Photo by Diana Robinson