ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Senate has voted to repeal immunity protections granted to health care facilities, administrators, and executives during the coronavirus pandemic. Voting on the Treatment Protection Act, which also includes additional transparency requirements for nursing homes, was passed 63-0 on Wednesday afternoon.

The act, which forms part of a sweeping reform of nursing home legislation proposed in the wake of the nursing home scandal, was passed by the State Assembly on March 4. Senator Jim Tedisco tells NEWS10 lawmakers want to repeal those protections and further improve transparency for nursing homes. “I am happy we’re going to change it today and I am happy I had the ability to vote against it and be able to vote for making it right this time around,” says Tedisco.  

“As I outlined in my office’s January report into nursing homes, I had serious concerns about the immunity provision included in last year’s budget, and I called for that provision to be repealed. While it is reasonable to provide some protections for health care workers making impossible health care decisions in good faith during an unprecedented public health crisis, it would never be appropriate or just for nursing home owners to be given blanket immunity for causing harm to residents. I applaud the Legislature for taking this critical action and ensuring that no one can evade potential accountability for the devastating loss of life that occurred in New York’s nursing homes.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said: “strong commitment to prioritizing the wellbeing, rights, and needs of residents and their families.”

“The tragic situation in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a dire need to guarantee greater transparency and accountability.

This legislation, in addition to the nursing home-related reforms recently advanced by the Senate Democratic Majority, continues our strong commitment to prioritizing the wellbeing, rights, and needs of residents and their families. I thank the sponsors for their work on these pressing issues, and we will continue to find ways to improve these facilities.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

In addition to the Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act, which repeals the COVID-19 liability protections, the legislation also includes:

The Mandatory Translation of Rights and Information on Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program act which requires homes to inform residents of, and prominently display information on, the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program.

Additionally, the Act requires the Department of Health to translate the nursing home residents’ bill of rights into the six most common non-English languages spoken in New York State.

Another prominent bill included in the Act is the Improved Certificate of Need Process, which ensures nursing home assets and ownership information are made public to improve transparency at nursing homes.

A bill included in April 2020’s state budget both extended the initial legal protections granted to doctors and nurses serving on the frontlines and added immunity for nursing home corporate executives.

Despite the legislative support, not everyone is in favor of the reforms. Some business leaders have spoken out against the Act, warning hospitals and nurses could be subject to a “free-for-all” of litigation.