A recent report by the New York Times describes findings by the New York state comptroller that former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration “failed to publicly account for the deaths of about 4,100 nursing home residents in New York during the pandemic.” According to an audit by the comptroller’s office, between April 2020 and February 2021, the Cuomo Administration’s Health Department “underreported the full death toll by as much as 50 percent.”
One reason for the underreporting: the administration’s practice of counting only nursing home residents who died in nursing home facilities, leaving out individuals who were transferred to hospitals and died there. Although the former governor reported claimed that the state’s “overall coronavirus death toll” included those individuals, the audit “refuted that assertion, finding that the administration was aware of the higher death toll and continued to withhold it.” Another reason for the underreporting is “poor data collection by the Health Department,” per the Times, which describes the comptroller’s findings that officials continued withholding the full picture once their methodology improved.
As the Times notes, the comptroller’s findings are in line with a 2021 report by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which found that the Cuomo Administration’s nursing home death count omitted thousands of deaths. A subsequent investigation by state lawmakers, as well as an investigation by the Times, also found that “Mr. Cuomo’s top aides had overruled health officials and rewrote a department report to keep hidden the true extent of deaths related to nursing homes.”
In a statement about the report, state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said, “Our audit findings are extremely troubling… The public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts when New Yorkers deserved the truth.” The Health Department published its own “12-page rebuttal” of the audit, stating in part: “Whatever criticisms may now be directed at the prior administration relating to issues of transparency, or the particular categories of information that were publicly disclosed, those ultimately were matters for the executive chamber of the prior administration and not department personnel.”
More information on the comptroller’s audit finding that the New York Health Department undercounted nursing home Covid-19 deaths under former governor Andrew Cuomo is available via the New York Times.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.