Jim Tedisco has been the New York State Senator for New York's 49th Senate District, which includes parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer Counties and all of Fulton and Hamilton Counties since 2017. His latest battle against the Commissioner of Health for New York State, Dr. Howard Zucker, is nothing but a political stunt typical for the Republicans in New York State.
Should the nursing home deaths during Covid be investigated? Sure. But let's not place blame where it doesn't belong. Let's not hold state Governors and Health Commissioners to a standard you're not willing to hold the Federal government, especially knowing now how the President intentionally lied to the entire country. New Yorkers are smarter than that, Senator.
I'm not going to get into the policies Dr. Zucker has spearheaded in New York like breast cancer screening availability for all women, and overseeing the state's initiative to legalize medical marijuana. You can find Dr. Zucker's history here to get the full picture of his public life.
What I'm going to do is tell you a personal story of who Dr. Zucker is when no one is looking.
In 2018, my Mom was dying in a nursing home in northern New York. She wanted Hospice involved in her end of life care and so did we, her children. At one point she wanted to be at home, but because of various circumstances it wasn't safe for her, and she had to go back to the home after only three days.
When she went back permanently, she was heavily medicated and we all knew it was close to the end. We were scared. We didn't know what to expect and what the end would look like. Hospice had become invaluable for helping us through this after only after a very short time of working with my Mom and our family.
One evening, when none of us kids were in my Mom's room - a rare occurrence - a nurse at this home convinced my heavily medicated, dying Mom to sign a paper releasing Hospice from being involved in her care in the nursing home. I was furious. When I complained to the nursing home administrative staff, I was told Medicare didn't cover the costs associated with having Hospice come into the nursing home to assist my Mom and our family, that we could not have both services for one patient. Hospice wouldn't even help initially because of this Medicare issue. I learned this was a lie, possibly unintentional on the part of Hospice, but misleading nonetheless.
What the nurses and administrative staff did not know is I have friends in New York State's Department of Health, good friends with high positions, and I needed advice and clarity on these rules. It was suggested I file a complaint with the Department of Health because nothing I was told sounded accurate. I didn't want to do that because I was afraid it would affect my Mom's care.
After spending hours on the phone with these friends, and combing through NYS's DOH web site to find contact information, or rules, or policies, I went to a professional networking site. I had nothing to lose so I decided to go straight to the top. I searched for Dr. Howard Zucker and sent him a private message directly, bypassing all of the red tape all state governments have. I sent the message at around 11pm, explained the situation in as much detail as I could, and included my phone number and email address.
At 2pm the next day, Dr. Zucker called me personally. He was empathetic and kind. He took all of the relevant information again and said he would make it a priority for his team to look into. I figured that meant red-tape and it would be days or weeks before I heard anything again. It didn't.
The very next day I walked into the nursing home and was called into the administrator's office. It was clear this woman was not happy. She told me we have to get some paperwork done in order to reinstate Hospice because I had filed a complaint with the DOH. I corrected her, happily, and let her know I did not file a complaint, but instead went directly to the Commissioner for clarity. Within a few days, Hospice was back in the nursing home caring for both my Mom and us kids providing emotional and palliative care, overseeing her medication, and helping understand what was happening physically and emotionally with my Mom's cancer progression.
Dr. Zucker didn't have to do any of that. He could have directed me to a web site. He could have directed me to any number of people in Northern NY. He could have chosen not to respond at all and ignore my plea for help. He didn't. We spent 30 minutes on the phone and this man listened while I cried, while I shared my fear, my anxiety, and my grief. He shared some of his personal experiences. He acted immediately, and no one would ever know.
But you know now. You know how he behaves when no one is looking. When there's no press. When there's no one else in the room.
Senator Tedisco can keep making a fool of himself while he calls into question Dr. Zucker's integrity, but I know better, and now you do too. Vote accordingly. Vote against Republican hypocrisy in New York State.
Thearse McCalmon is running against Tedisco. Visit her website to see where she stands on various policies, and donate to her campaign. Girl Gone Smart is officially endorsing McCalmon. Please follow her on Twitter at @ThearseForNY.