ALBANY — The Cuomo administration has directed nursing homes to collect a mandatory 60-day supply of PPE heading into the fall fearing a potential second wave of coronavirus.
The order was slipped into language in the state registrar late last week, sans fanfare and following disastrous testimony from Health Commissioner Howard Zucker claiming hospitals and nursing homes “had enough” PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nursing homes and other long term care facilities must be able to prove they have at least two months worth of personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, gowns and the like by Sept. 30.
For facilities struggling to meet that deadline, they can ask the DOH for an extension through Oct. 30.
Michael Balboni, head of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities group that represents nursing homes and other long term care facilities downstate, told The Post he’s never seen such a requirement from the state — and it’s much needed.
“Typically after a disaster, public policy lurches from response to response without any type of commitment. This is the first time that I know of that the state is specifically requiring a pandemic response either on-site or readily available,” he told The Post.
He said at the start of the pandemic, the state was in a panic and was providing PPE to nursing home associations to distribute to individual homes.
Balboni added he spent a full weekend in March at the Javits Center working with National Guardsmen and other nursing home reps, loading his own car with state Health Department-supplied PPE and then driving to at least 30 nursing homes in the New York metro area.
There was also a second distribution date, on April 11, at the Nassau Coliseum.
“This is important for the next surge,” he added of the stockpile.
“But of course, there are limitations. The biggest limitation is what if the next pandemic is something other than covid? What if the next disaster is not a healthcare crisis?”
The DOH calculated the two months’ requirement based on a department assessment of one week in mid-April — nursing homes across the state, including assisted living and other adult care facilities, ripped through 12 million PPE pieces.
Zucker has said the state gave out 14 million PPE pieces in total.
County sources told The Post the DOH did provide PPE, but they were also forced to purchase supplies and vet vendors on a daily basis.
“Even when it was in short supply globally, we were still providing unprecedented amounts of PPE to these facilities – just one example of the many ways in which we have, and will continue to support nursing homes through the pandemic,” DOH spokeswoman Jill Montag told The Post.
“These regulations are necessary to ensure that nursing homes, and all aspects of the healthcare network, are prepared for a potential second wave.”
The order also comes as over 6,440 nursing home residents have died in homes due to the virus, but that total has been estimated to potentially be much higher.
Family members, politicians and other healthcare experts have demanded an independently appointed investigator conduct an analysis of how the DOH’s handled the virus in these facilities.