BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Some Erie County lawmakers want to know why a piece of legislation designed to keep the elderly safe isn’t being enforced.
Ruthie’s Law passed the county legislature in 2017, one year after the death of Ruth Murray. She died after an incident involving another resident of the former Emerald South Nursing home.
The law requires nursing homes to inform family members within two hours when a resident suffers a serious injury. It also requires nursing homes to file semi-annual reports with Erie County.
However according to county records, only 13 nursing homes out of 36 county-wide were compliant with the law in the most recent reporting period, which ran from January-May 2019. Nine of the nursing homes haven’t been compliant in any of the reporting periods since the law went into effect.
Ruthie’s Law gives Erie County the power to impose a $2,000 fine on nursing homes which don’t comply. However Legislator Joe Lorigo, who serves as the leader of the Republican minority, says he’s not aware of any instances in which that fine was levied.
“The law as it was written really never had a good enforcement provision, which is not dissimilar to a lot of the laws that have been proposed and passed recently,” Lorigo said. “We’re sort of legislating by headline and press release.”
Lorigo and the rest of the Republican caucus sent a letter to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who signed Ruthie’s Law, expressing their concerns.
Peter Anderson, a spokesperson for the county executive, said The Department of Senior Services is in consultation with the Erie County Attorney’s office to determine the extent of any actions to be taken against non-compliant facilities.
“Nothing is off the table,” Anderson said via email.
Anderson also suggested the letter sent by Republicans to Poloncarz is a political stunt, with Election Day one week away.
Poloncarz is facing a challenge from Legislator Lynne Dixon for his seat.