2002-08-14 / Seniors

Improved Nursing Home Care Hard To Come By

By John Toscano

Once again, woefully inadequate city and state laws to make living in nursing homes safe for seniors are making the headlines and once again, Governor George Pataki is vowing to do something about them. However, he won’t get a chance to do anything unless the Democrat-controlled Assembly can see its clear way to approving some bills.

The furor over the dangers of nursing home living flared last week when the Daily News revealed that hundreds of criminals are working in the homes, even though many of them have been convicted of serious assaults and sexual offenses. All the cited employees are licensed, but the licensing is done without checking for possible criminals convictions before or after the license is issued. Nor does current state law permit state officials to give the city’s nursing homes information about their employees.

The state senate has passed bills several times requiring finger printing of nursing home job applicants, but the Assembly has failed to vote its approval. The reason, Democratic Assembly leaders say, is that they want more than just fingerprinting. They also want other related matters included, such as improving benefits and training. Reportedly the Assembly has been persuaded to take this position under pressure from the nursing home employees union, the Service Employees International Union, Local 1199. This is the same politically powerful union which abandoned the Democrats to endorse Pataki for re-election this year after the governor signed a bill granting the union attractive benefits.

What it boils down to is that political considerations have for several years blocked any chance of creating laws to make fragile seniors in nursing homes any safer.

Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed the issue in commenting on the latest findings. As he sees it, according to the stories printed, safe guarding the elderly must be balanced against giving people a second chance. From the workers’ standpoint, if they’ve paid their debt to society by serving time for a crime, then they must be given the chance to work their way back into society. On the other hand, all precautions necessary must be taken to make sure all citizens, including the elderly in nursing homes, are protected.

VALLONE JR. HAILS SENIOR SWIMMERS: City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) was on hand recently for the annual Astoria Pool celebration, a festive event with celebrates the aquatic recreation afforded senior citizens and the disabled at the famous pool in Astoria Park.

"As a former lifeguard and as someone who spent his entire life growing up across the street from Astoria Park," Vallone stated at the event," I realize the importance of water safety and aquatic recreation to our seniors and challenged youngsters. This is why I’m so proud to have been successful in fighting for and providing continued funding for this outstanding program."

Vallone presented some awards at the event, which is sponsored by the Department of Parks and Recreation, Catholic Charities, and Community Board 1.

GALLAGHER CITED: Leaders at the Middle Village Adult Center recently saluted Assemblymember Dennis Gallagher (R–C, Middle Village) for his efforts on its behalf, specifically securing a $20,000 grant for the center’s activities, $7,000 more than the center received last year.

As chief of staff to former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene, Gallagher assured the center of receiving grants for the betterment of its members, leaders of the center said, and added that as the district’s new councilmember, he is continuing in the same vein.

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