State Supreme Court judge declares ‘Ruthie’s law’ inapplicable

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BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – State Supreme Court Justice Donna Siwek has declared the Ruthie Law “illegal, unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

The law, also known as “Erie County Local Law 2-2017,” was approved by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz in July 2017. It was enacted to protect residents nursing homes susceptible to abuse.

It was named after Ruth Murray – an 82-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease who in 2016 died following a fight with another resident of the Emerald South Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center.

According to Erie County Information on compliance, “Erie Ruthie County’s law aims to ensure that nursing homes promptly notify families of their residents after a reportable event and to increase transparency and accountability through semi-annual reporting.” .

Reportable events were defined as “an altercation between patients and / or nursing home staff that results in injury to one or more patients, or any incident in which a patient is injured so seriously that a call to emergency to 911 and / or treatment outside the nursing home is required, or the death of a patient is found to have been related, even in part, to an act of negligence or omission on the part of a nursing home.

According to Judge Siwek’s decision on Tuesday, the New York State Health Facilities Association (NYSHFA) previously told Erie County that the law, as proposed, was illegal and unconstitutional for a variety of reasons.

They say it was “in contradiction with New York law and that it would duplicate and conflict with current federal and state requirements.” Additionally, they say it violated New York City Public Health Act, which prohibits local governments from passing laws regulating hospitals, which in this case include nursing homes.

“[N]Notwithstanding the provisions of any general, special or local law, or in any municipal charter or administrative code to the contrary, no county, town, village or town shall make and enforce regulations and standards for hospitals.

New York Public Health Act §2812

“Despite the good intentions of the Erie County Legislature and Executive regarding nursing home patient care when the Ruthie Law was enacted for the reasons set out herein, the complainants are correct in saying that Ruthie’s law is illegal, unconstitutional and unenforceable, ”Judge Siwek said. .

Read the decision in full here.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the county may appeal the decision.

“The court’s decision to overturn the Ruthie Law is disappointing and will remove a much needed layer of oversight from nursing home operations. Nursing home residents are some of our most vulnerable populations and deserve the most support and protection possible. As we saw last year, locally and statewide, this population is also extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, although the high lethality of the virus for residents of nursing homes has been unduly underreported by the state and was not revealed until months later. Tragedies like these, along with the need to ensure safe, secure and healthy living spaces, underscore the need for county oversight and oversight of these facilities. Erie County will now consider potential next steps, including a possible appeal. “

Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Director

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