By Síle Moloney
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi issued the following statement explaining why she voted against bill S8835 which passed in the State Senate on July 23. The bill amends the public health law, in relation to amending provisions regarding health care facilities and professionals during the COVID-19 emergency. The purpose of the bill is to limit immunity granted in the 2020-21 adopted budget to health care professionals that are providing diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 directly to confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients.
“More than 6,500 New Yorkers have died in nursing homes and adult care facilities from COVID-19 – almost 800 people in the Bronx alone,” she said. “Each one of these deaths represents a family mourning and looking for answers. But because of the Governor’s Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act that was slipped into the budget this year, those healthcare facilities have been stripped of liability for the New Yorkers in their care. We have an obligation to right this wrong and create transparency and accountability for the thousands of families who have lost their loved ones.”
She continued, “This issue goes beyond COVID patients in nursing homes and hospitals. In practice, the Governor’s immunity provisions in Article 30-D of the Public Health Law apply to any treatment provided during the COVID outbreak – whether it is COVID related or not. For example, if you went to a doctor for a broken arm, gave birth, had appendicitis, or went to the dermatologist during the COVID emergency, and wrongdoing occurred, you cannot pursue a case or claim against the healthcare provider for malpractice less than gross negligence – an extremely high threshold. In other words, any New Yorker who went to the doctor between March 7th and April 2nd, who walked into that appointment, treatment, or care facility with rights, had them taken away on April 3rd when the budget went into effect. In my seventeen months in office, this budget provision is one of the most egregious abuses of power I have seen”.
Biaggi went to say that she voted against the bill S8835 because it fails to provide New Yorkers with the justice they deserve. “S8835 only addresses COVID-related cases prospectively and restores the protections that existed prior to the pandemic for just non-COVID cases moving forward. Not only does this fail to give recourse to the thousands of families who have lost loved ones to COVID, it does not account for the budget language that retroactively took away the rights of New Yorkers who visited a doctor for non-COVID related care.”
Biaggi concluded, “The bottom line is that we have failed to do our job to protect the rights of all New Yorkers – the fight for justice and accountability continues.”
Biaggi and Assemblymember Ron Kim had previously introduced legislation that aimed to repeal an amendment in the state budget that would give blanket corporate immunity to nursing home owners, shareholders, and trustees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norwood News previously reported reported on the widespread death caused by COVID-19 in various nursing homes across the Bronx, at the height of the pandemic.