Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim and colleagues in government from around New York City demanded that Governor Andrew Cuomo to take accountability for the nursing home scandal during a City Hall rally on Feb. 24.
Amidst the very public feud between Kim and Cuomo that seems to be drawing more politicians into its polarizing vortex by the day, the Queens Democrat called upon the governor to return the $2 million in donations that were sent by the Greater New York Hospital Association; fully repeal the corporate immunity which allows nursing homes to not be held accountable for deaths of 15,000 people during the COVID-19 pandemic; and provide full disclosure all communication and correspondence between the hospitals and nursing home lobbyists to be shown to the public and media.
Kim is also calling for a congressional oversight hearing on this matter.
“On March 25, 2020, Cuomo issued a mandate that said 9,000 COVID patients to unprepared nursing homes,” Kim said, referring to a now-infamous memo from the state Health Department. “They told the Department of Health over and over that they could not handle them. They didn’t have PPE, their staff was sick with COVID already and they were not working. Nursing home workers told the Governor that if they sent COVID patients back to nursing homes they would die. What was Cuomo’s answer to them? He gave them a license to kill. That is what criminal and legal immunity is. It is the license to kill older adults through substandard care knowing that they can’t go to jail or be sued by families,” Kim said.
Kim commenced the rally by calling out Cuomo for abusing his power and trying to bully others to bend to his will, chanting with the crowd, “Cuomo is an abuser. Cuomo abuses his powers. Abusers are cowards!”
The assemblyman continued that there must be accountability for the families and even employees who were caught in the crossfire of what some politicians have described as a coverup by the Cuomo administration.
“This about getting justice for our families here in New York, who are grieving their loved ones, who deserve answers and to know why it is that their loved ones were moved without their consent. Why some of them were given near-lethal cocktails as supposed medicine and didn’t necessarily receive the appropriate medical care that we expect to receive?” Queens state Senator Jessica Ramos said.
Ramos, who is Chair of the State Senate Labor Committee, charged that Cuomo is shifting much of the blame on the nursing home workers for the 15,000 patient deaths.
“There is a lot of reckoning that is going to take place here in New York. We are going to get to the bottom of this and we are going to need your help,” Ramos told the crowd.
Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander also weighed in, believing that the first step Cuomo should take is that of a public apology, which Lander himself issued on behalf of the local government.
“As a member of the government, I am issuing an apology. Government failed these families, we failed in that executive order. We failed to make sure those nursing homes were safe places for your families and when there is responsibility when the government fails and people die then the first step is that there needs to be an apology,” Lander said.
Family members of those who perished in a variety of nursing homes also joined the rally, many of whom arrived gripping photographs of their loved ones.
Haydee Pabey hugged a framed picture of her mother, Elba, throughout the event, who passed away at aged 72 on April 6 from COVID-19. Pabey blames Cuomo for the restrictions he put in place, which prevented her from seeing her mother before her death.
An advocate from Voices for Seniors also brought a small urn containing her mother’s ashes, a symbol of one of the many elderly individuals who have died during the pandemic.