Letters to the Editor — Feb. 27, 2021
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The CEOs of five major New York City hospitals came to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aid by issuing a statement in support of a controversial directive for nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients — after their industry pushed for it.
A senior-care insider said Friday that nursing homes weren’t consulted before the March 25 mandate was issued and that it “obviously came from the hospitals.”
“Who else would come up with that, other than the hospitals?” the source said.
Jim Clyne, president of Leading Age New York — which represents nursing homes and other residential facilities for seniors — also said, “No one talked to me” before the state Health Department issued the directive.
In an 800-plus-word statement, the hospital CEOs said the since-rescinded order was a “prudent and safe option” to free up beds at their facilities during the first wave of the pandemic.
“It is an everyday practice for hospitals to discharge stable, medically recovered patients to nursing homes so long as the nursing home can safely care for the patient,” their statement said.
“This is true even of infectious patients who are medically stable, if proper precautions are taken.”
The executives who signed the statement include Mount Sinai Health System CEO Kenneth Davis, who The Post revealed was isolated in a waterfront mansion near Palm Beach, Fla., at the time the mandate was issued — and while desperate nurses at Mount Sinai West were wearing trash bags to protect themselves from infection.
Also signing it were Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling — a former state official and longtime Cuomo adviser — as well as NewYork-Presbyterian CEO Steven Corwin, NYU Langone Health CEO Robert Grossman and Montefiore Medicine CEO Philip Ozuah.
The CEOs’ retroactive prescription for the directive — which critics blame for spreading infections among highly vulnerable seniors — was made in a press release late Wednesday afternoon, ahead of Thursday’s grilling of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker at a legislative budget hearing.
It also appears to have been part of a two-pronged, public-relations blitz that involved a 1,700-plus-word statement and conference call with reporters by Cuomo aide Steven Cohen, who repeated many of the governor’s talking points.
But the efforts didn’t inoculate Zucker against repeated attacks from outraged lawmakers, including state Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Elmira), who demanded to know who ordered that the total number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 be kept from the public.
Zucker declined to answer that question, citing an “ongoing investigation” by federal authorities that was reportedly sparked by The Post’s revelation of the cover-up.
Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) — who has called for Cuomo’s impeachment over the cover-up and demanded that he and the state Democratic Committee return $10 million in donations from the hospital industry — accused the governor of “hiding behind his loyalists.”
“The governor can’t gaslight the public out of this,” Kim said.
“That is why we need an independent commission with subpoena power to investigate the decisions the Cuomo administration made in nursing homes.”
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Tarrytown) also said, “Clearly, the Cuomo administration is attempting to justify a bad decision after the fact, after it’s being criticized.”
“The mere introduction of COVID patients violates the basic medical practice of keeping people safe,” said Abinanti, a member of the Assembly Health Committee.
“There was not medical science to demonstrate that this would do no harm and, after the fact, they’re scrambling to justify a decision.”
Cuomo hasn’t appeared in public since widespread, bipartisan outrage erupted Wednesday over new sexual harassment allegations by former aide Lindsey Boylan, now a Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president.
The Greater New York Hospital Association — which represents more than 160 hospitals and health system, including those whose CEOs issued Wednesday’s statement — said, “As has been widely reported, GNYHA sought assistance from the State on the proper discharge of COVID-19 patients who no longer required hospital care.”
“This was requested against the backdrop of the State’s directive that hospitals immediately and significantly increase bed capacity to make room for an anticipated surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients,” the GNYHA added.
Northwell Health declined to comment but neither Cuomo’s office nor Mount Sinai, New York-Presbyterian, NYU Langone nor Montefiore immediately returned requests for comment.
The Health Department said, “There are politics and there are facts. This letter clearly outlines science-based conclusions from leadership at some of the finest healthcare institutions in the world who did everything they could to help lead this state through the darkest days of this pandemic.”
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