Albany Times Union

From Hochul, compassion­ate words and hopeful signs

- By Ron Kim

Gov. Kathy Hochul was sworn into office promising an new era of transparen­cy and open, ethical governing. There were immediate cries for “unity,” and many of us breathed a

Assembly Member Ron Kim, D-queens, represents the 40th Assembly District. sigh of relief.

However, for me, unity would have to wait. I still had not heard plans on how this administra­tion was going to address the 16,000 families still reeling from losing their loved ones in nursing homes. I still had not heard how this governor was going to restore the faith and functional­ity of our Health Department. And I still had not heard plans about how she was going to pry the hands of our health care away from showboatin­g hospital lobbyists.

Recently, I unveiled “The Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act” in front of the governor’s Manhattan office. The legislatio­n has a $4 billion victim compensati­on fund, along with amendments to the wrongful death clause and statute of limitation­s. It turned out to be a very consequent­ial event: As I was leaving, I ran into the governor.

“Hey, I heard you’re out here protesting me,” she said.

We laughed, and I shared how significan­t it would be to meet with her to talk about the new legislatio­n and hear from some of the families. She quickly agreed.

This was the first time a sitting governor sat down with me, as chair of the Committee on Aging, and the families who lost their loved ones. We wanted to discuss the deadly March 25, 2020, order, reauditing the data, the victim compensati­on fund, and lots more.

So last Tuesday, the families and I met up for this highly anticipate­d meeting.

Then a call came that no son wanted to receive.

While waiting in the lobby,

We deserve a truly independen­t Health Department. We do not need more private-equity investors raiding our nursing homes, looting Medicare and Medicaid, and killing patients with impunity.

my mother’s doctor called. Three weeks ago, she caught a breakthrou­gh COVID case while working as a cook in a Korean market. She was fully vaccinated, but is now one of the unlucky ones whose health is deteriorat­ing and is now intubated. The doctor wanted to discuss what course of action the family wanted to take if my mom went into cardiac arrest. My heart broke. The little hope we’d been holding onto seemed to be slipping away.

With my mother on my mind, we all went upstairs.

The governor opened the meeting acknowledg­ing what a difficult time this must be for my family, and how she and her staff are praying for my mother. She gave a heartfelt apology for all of the families’ pain — words they had been holding out to hear for almost two years. Everyone in the room began to tear up. The governor went around the room so everyone could share their stories, the months of pent-up frustratio­n and anger towards a past administra­tion that did nothing but gaslight them and erase their trauma as if they weren’t even human beings began to release. She showed grace and humility. There was change.

This governor has a real chance to differenti­ate herself from her predecesso­r. We deserve a truly independen­t Health Department. We do not need more private-equity investors raiding our nursing homes, looting Medicare and Medicaid, and killing patients with impunity. We do not need more of our health care outsourced to greedy hospital lobbyists who boast about access to her office and cause mass death. We need an executive who focuses on the rights of patients and nursing home residents, but that can’t be done while holding up the corrupt apparatus around the Health Department.

I hope the governor left our meeting believing we want her to win. She held our stories and a prayer for my mother with the care you would want her to. She has great empathy and awesome power to make New York the leader in elder care reform. We can get this right. With her grace, and our fortitude, there is no limit to what can be done.

As for my mother, I know she can be proud. Her son is standing on his own two feet with a heart filled with her love. She can rest easy now knowing that she raised me right, which is why I will continue this fight.

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