County executive aims to boost protections for local seniors

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz joined local and state leaders Friday to unveil a package of actions he feels will help keep local seniors safe.

“Ruthie’s Law” is named for 82-year-old Ruth Murray. The Alzheimer’s patient was fatally beaten at the Buffalo’s Emerald South Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in August 2016.

Poloncarz said the measure aims to make sure a tragedy like that never occurs again.

MORE | Resident dies after fight at Emerald South Nursing Home

The measure will require certain actions not mandated by the state.

  • For instance, nursing homes must notify family of residents within one hour if the resident is transported to the hospital.
  • Facilities must also inform every potential resident of its New York State Department of Health ranking at the time of application.
  • Poloncarz noted staff at Emerald South downplayed Murray’s injuries to her family; to avoid this in the future, Ruthie’s Law gives subpoena power to Senior Services Commissioner, Timothy Hogues.

The county executive was joined by Hogues, Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger, and New York State Assemblymember Sean Ryan.

At the state level, Ryan is supporting a measure that would boost the maximum fines allowable for nursing homes.

In the Ruth Murray case, Emerald South was fined $10,000, which Poloncarz called ” a drop in the bucket.”

The state push Ryan is supporting would up that to $50,000.

The assemblymember noted another instance of alleged elder abuse continues to be investigated; an elderly woman was reportedly sexually abused at the Waterfront Center in Buffalo Jan. 3rd.

The suspect, a level three sex offender, was transferred the facility from prison; his previous victims were elderly women.

The administrator of the Waterfront Center claims to have not been notified of the suspect’s specific criminal history.

Assemblymember Ryan said facts still need to be ironed out, like why the man was transferred to that facility in the first place. The Department of Corrections maintains they did inform the nursing home of the man’s sex offender status.

Poloncarz also unveiled an executive order Friday, to create a county database where local nursing home rankings will be published.

“Ruthie’s Law” is being submitted to the county legislature next week.

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