Poloncarz Signs "Ruthie's Law"

Modified: July 7, 2017 12:52pm

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Erie County’s newest law was officially adopted today as Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz signed “Ruthie’s Law”, a multi-faceted measure designed to better protect senior citizens in nursing homes as well as provide current information to their loved ones and family members. The law, which requires nursing homes in Erie County to inform a designated individual within two hours after a resident suffers an injury that requires hospital treatment, is named in memory of Ruth Murray, a nursing home resident who died last year following a physical altercation with another resident. Murray’s daughter, Carol Smith Kuszniaj, did not learn of the altercation involving her mother or its seriousness for hours after the event occurred.


In addition to the notification requirement, Ruthie’s Law will also provide Erie County’s Commissioner of Senior Services with updated data on the frequency of altercations between residents, or between residents and staff, that result in injury. Information regarding serious injuries or deaths will also be provided. The law also gives the Commissioner the ability to subpoena and review nursing home injury reports to ensure compliance.


“Ruthie’s Law is a strong statement of support for our seniors and will ensure that family members are aware of what’s happening with their loved ones in nursing homes. Families everywhere depend on quality care and timely notifications if something should occur that involves their relative and they should be notified as soon as possible if their loved one is injured,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “I would like to thank the Erie County Legislature for unanimously passing Ruthie’s law after I introduced it and also thank Carol Smith Kuszniaj for allowing us to name the law in memory of her mother. We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable, and Ruthie’s Law underscores that responsibility.”


Erie County Commissioner of Senior Services Tim Hogues added, “This important law strengthens protections for our seniors and provides timely information on their status to their families. Getting this local law officially on the books is a win for families with loved ones in nursing homes and is one of several measures being taken by Erie County to protect our seniors.”


In March 2017 Poloncarz signed his sixteenth Executive Order, affirming nursing home accountability and creating a county website publicizing the rankings of nursing homes in Erie County. Though the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publish rankings, which are also available through the NYS   Department of Health, county residents are now able to more easily access that information on the county website.


The Order also charged the county Department of Senior Services with preparing a “Know Your Rights” guide for potential nursing home patients which will be provided to those who go through the options counseling process with the department. Along with the guide, a list of nursing homes and their Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Nursing home quality measure ratings will also be provided to those searching for such guidance from the department.


Ruthie’s law will take effect after it is filed with the NYS Secretary of State.


For more information:


On the Erie County Department of Senior Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/seniorservices/