Sen. O’Mara says getting DOH involvement in nursing homes “was like pulling teeth”

New York State

CORNING, NY (WETM) — Over 100 residents of nursing homes have lost their lives due to COVID, in Steuben County, now republican officials call for an investigation.

After a report from the Attorney General’s office claiming that nursing home data published from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent, New York State Senator Tom O’Mara joins Rep. Tom Reed in a push for a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the States handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

O’Mara says that he does not believe that the state gave enough PPEs to the workforce, and he says that getting the department of health to get involved with a local nursing home outbreak was difficult.

“When we tried to get the department of health into Hornell Gardens early on, it was like pulling teeth,” O’Mara said. “They did not want to get engaged and we forced it with conference calls, with Congressman Reed on them, with myself, with Jack Wheeler from Steuben County the manager there, Darlene Smith the Public Health Director. We were pushing very hard to get them to come in and just do basic testing. Let’s test everybody, Let’s find out who’s got it and who doesn’t, and let’s separate them, and that was difficult just to get them to do that.”

WETM has reached out to New York State DOH for comment and we are still waiting on a response.

Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler said, “The impact of COVID-19 on our community, particularly the nursing home population, has been devastating.  Locally, we have maintained a proactive response to case clusters, especially in nursing homes.  We’ve relied upon the assistance of the New York State Department of Health, as they are the department that licenses and regulates nursing homes.  In some cases, especially early in the pandemic, we had to press very hard to get the resources and assistance we urgently needed.  The advocacy and support of our elected officials including Congressman Reed, Senator O’Mara, Assemblyman Palmesano, Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, and Hornell Mayor John Buckley were critical to securing the response we requested.”

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