Poloncarz signs new ‘Ruthie’s Law’ to protect Erie County seniors

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed “Ruthie’s Law”, Friday afternoon, a measure designed to better protect the seniors and other residents of nursing homes in Erie County. The new law was named in honor of Ruth Murray, who was killed by a fellow resident in a Buffalo nursing home, last year.

Poloncarz was accompanied by Murray’s family members as he signed the new law, which was so important to Erie County lawmakers, they quickly passed “Ruthie’s Law”, unanimously.

Nursing homes are now being held accountable by county agencies for care of their residents, and are required to notify family members, within two hours, when a resident requires hospital care.

Ruth Murray, 82, was a resident of the Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Delaware Avenue, last August, when she slipped away from her room undetected, and ended up in the room of a patient who thought she was an intruder.

The male patient who was known to have a violent history, beat Murray severely, but Emerald South staff only reported the incident as an altercation, with minimal injuries. However, two days later, Murray was dead.

Murray’s sister, Louise Spahn, still resents the manner the nursing home staff handled the incident, “In our case, it was stated there was no urgency to get into the hospital, that she would be placed back at the nursing home within a few hours–and she was not–and we could have been by her side a lot longer through this horrible ordeal.”

State officials leveled the stiffest fine possible against Emerald South, but county lawmakers did more, giving the county the power to fine nursing homes for failing to maintain minimum standards.

Poloncarz pointed out the new county measure should prevent a repeat of the Murray debacle, “That if any patients suffer an injury due to a reportable event which necessitates an emergency call to 911, or outside treatment, the nursing facility must contact the family–or loved one described as a contact–within two hours.”

Nursing homes are now required to file status reports twice a year, and the Erie County Commissioner of Senior Services Tim Hogues has the authority to subpoena a facility’s records if he feels the staff is not being truthful.

Ruthie’s Law does not take effect until it is recorded with the New York Secretary of State, which Poloncarz expects to take place Monday. Erie County also has an online guide for families considering nursing home care for loved ones, and here is a link to the county’s webpage.

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