Erie County may be ready to start fining nursing homes not following Ruthie’s Law

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County could be just weeks away from adding teeth to Ruthie’s Law, a measure passed in 2017 which bolstered reporting requirements for nursing homes.

Getting nursing homes to comply with the law has been a struggle for the county. The most recent data indicates just 20 out of 35 nursing homes were in line with requirements under the law during the June-December 2019 reporting period.

The law gives the county the option to fine nursing homes which violate the law up to $2,000. It appears fines may finally soon be levied.

“The senior services commissioner told us last week that he has given these nursing homes that aren’t in compliance until the end of the month and then he’s going to start levying fines,” said Legislator Joe Lorigo.

“Money talks,” he added. “Sometimes it’s the only thing that works with these types of organizations.”

A spokesperson for Senior Services Commissioner David Shenk and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz didn’t respond to questions about their plans Thursday.

Ruthie’s Law was named after Ruth Murray, who was beaten to death by another resident at the former Emerald South complex in 2016. It requires nursing homes operators to report incidents involving residents to their family members in a timely manner. They’re also required to file semi-annual reports with the county.

“There are a lot of nursing homes that have not complied with the law and many that have said they have no intention ever to,” Lorigo said.

The county legislature’s health and human services chairwoman says she’s been working to find out why so many homes are not in compliance.

“We have worked diligently to understand why they’re not reporting,” said Legislator Lisa Chimera. “Is it a misunderstanding? Are they not familiar with the process?”

Chimera says some just didn’t understand the law and started complying once they did. But now, time appears to be up for the others.

Boosting it’s support for enforcing the law, the legislature unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday calling on the county’s senior services department to begin issuing fines. They expect that to happen in March.

“I’m certainly expecting those compliance numbers to increase,” Chimera said.

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