June 25, 2020
Today, Rep. Tom Reed delivered the following statement at the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee Hearing on the COVID-19 nursing home crisis.
Thank you Ranking Member Nunes for yielding your time to me and Chairman Doggett for convening this hearing. This has been a priority for our office since the beginning of this crisis. Today, we need to focus on accountability, leadership, and action for the past mistakes that happened over the course of this crisis. Most importantly as we move forward, we must protect against the horrific loss of life that we have seen in New York from occurring in the future.
Since this virus first hit our shores, we have known our nation’s parents and grandparents were particularly at risk.
While many states, 45 in fact, chose to follow CDC guidance regarding nursing home regulations, a small group of governors made fatal errors that directly exposed the elderly to COVID-19 and placed our most vulnerable population in harm’s way.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, in my home state of New York, enacted a series of disastrous policies that directly lead to the deaths of thousands of our state’s parents and grandparents.
We know this virus is not going away any time soon. If we are to ensure our nation’s parents and grandparents are protected moving forward, we need to fully understand why Governor Cuomo and the four other governors ordered COVID-19 positive seniors to be forced into nursing homes, exposing the entire nursing home population and staff to death.
Here is Governor Cuomo’s March 25 executive order, which I have here and request unanimous consent that is included in the record.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I felt it was particularly important to submit because transparency is important, and this order has been deleted from the public records of the internet.
Immediately after Governor Cuomo imposed this order to force COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, the Society for Post Acute and Long Term Care, or ADMA, sent a direct written warning to the Governor. The letter stated, and I quote, the mandate was “overreaching, not consistent with science,” and “beyond all, not in the least consistent with patient safety principles.” The letter also noted the order would result in significant risk of fatality to nursing home residents. I would like to also request unanimous consent to submit this March 26th letter to the record.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Instead of working with us, the medical community, and advocates on solutions, Governor Cuomo is focused on lying to the American public as evidenced by independent fact-checkers, who ruled the Governor did not follow federal guidelines. Even now, he continues to refuse to take responsibility for the state’s errors. It is offensive to those who have lost a parent or a grandparent and who just want answers.
Our investigation in this Committee should serve as the foundation of future nursing home policies and decision making. The result should be a comprehensive strategy to keep our nation’s parents and grandparents safe from what I fear will be a return to a crisis-level of nursing home deaths in the Fall as the virus potentially re-emerges. Congress must ensure that state leaders follow the proper best practices tailored to meet the specific needs of the community moving forward.
We should be fighting for people like Donna, from our district, who recently shared her story with us after failing to hear from a single New York official in response to her plea for help. She is extremely concerned about her dear Aunt Rita, who has been isolated and unable to interact with her family for months.
She said “I’m pleading with you to address this…[we can’t have] a one size fits all [approach]…we need someone who cares enough to speak up for those who can’t.” We should also stand with Doreen, from our district, who has been unable to see her 95 year old mother for weeks and has described the whole situation as a “nightmare for the family.” The American people need our help, and they are relying on us to act because they have lost faith in their state’s competence and ability to roll up their sleeves and put a plan of action in place.
I join with all the witnesses here today who say we owe it to our parents and grandparents to do better.
But most importantly, we should not cast blame, and instead demand justice and accountability. We should take action to make sure tens of thousands of parents and grandparents do not face the death sentence that many faced in New York because of the state’s March 25th order, which had no scientific evidence or data to support such an egregious policy decision.
Thank you again for organizing this hearing and with that, I yield back.