Congressman, Healthcare Officials Criticize New York’s Nursing Home Testing Requirement

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ENFIELD, NY (WSKG) – Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed blames New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes. Reed also criticizes the governor’s executive order that requires twice a week COVID-19 tests for nursing home staff.

Reed detailed his objections in a lengthy letter to the governor signed by over a dozen Republican state legislators.  They include Assembly members Phil Palmesano and Christopher Friend, and state senators Fred Akshar and Tom O’Mara.

On Thursday, Reed conducted an online roundtable discussion with state legislators and regional hospital and nursing home officials. During the roundtable, Martin Stallone, who’s CEO of Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, explained some of his objections to the testing mandate.*

“The twice per week is not based in any scientific recommendation and counters what the CDC is asking for,” Stallone said.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Screen cap of Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO, Cayuga Medical Center. (Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

Cayuga Medical Center is a regional testing site and the only hospital in Tompkins County. It has no reported cases of COVID-19 among nursing facility staff or residents.

Stallone said local officials should have more control over nursing home testing and other responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. He says  infection rates vary greatly across the state.

“In many of the counties in Representative Reed’s larger district, there are no positive nursing home, COVID-positive patients or staff members, and so the twice per week requirement is unfitting,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense and it’s a waste of resources.”

In mid-May, the New York Times reported at least 28,100 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States.

Stallone said funding the tests is also in dispute. The state asserts the tests should be covered by insurers as medically necessary, and insurers insist they don’t qualify as medically needed.

Providers currently cover the costs, but don’t know if they will be reimbursed. Stallone said they can’t afford to do that permanently.

Congressman Reed said the state is withholding federal aid that should go to localities for additional testing but did not provide clear proof of that statement.

*Full disclosure: Cayuga Medical Center is a WSKG Underwriter.