That could mean more training sessions to make sure nursing home staff are using reporting tools like the hospital-acquired outbreak reporting app, or NORA, correctly, DiNapoli said.
“I don’t support the idea of less regulation, just more cooperation,” he said. “The problem is not over-regulation of nursing homes. It was inadequate implementation of the rules we already have.”
Richard Molloth, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for nursing homes and nursing home residents, said the Department of Health should monitor nursing home staffing and other key metrics more closely to spot potential problems.
The audit found that the department “usually underreported the number of deaths” in nursing homes. It also found that the department does not conduct broad analyzes of the data it collects from multiple sources to identify outbreaks across facilities or to identify other patterns of infectious disease.
The auditor believes that if the department had more accurate data and conducted a proactive analysis, it could be better able to help nursing homes respond to the pandemic.
The audit said the department “coordinated its presentation with the executive’s narrative, often presenting data in ways that mislead the public,” referring to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his staff, and members of the state’s multi-agency task force, including Dr. Howard Zucker. , former state health commissioner.
Zucker, who retired in September, disputed this characterization.
“The Department of Health, under my leadership, has worked tirelessly and with the highest level of integrity and has provided the Governor’s office with data on a regular basis,” he said in a statement to Crane. “However, the department had no control over how the governor’s administration presented this data to the public.”
Ministry of Health officials told the auditors that “decisions on how to report death data are made by non-data-collecting officials,” but they did not name the decision makers.
In a written response to the audit, the Department of Health said the comptroller’s office combined a lack of transparency under the Cuomo administration with the development and use of departmental data to detect and control infections. The agency said each of its data sources is used in a different way. Aggregating data across systems would be statistically problematic, he said.
“The Department respectfully disagrees with the conclusions of the draft report as a whole,” the statement said.
The infection control audit was part of a series conducted by the controller that focused on the Department of Health’s oversight of nursing homes.