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Legislature passes Ruthie's Law nursing home protection

A local law designed to better protect nursing home residents passed unanimously in the Erie County Legislature on Thursday.Ruth Murray, 82, was a resident of Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Buffalo when she died from injuries inflicted by a male patient on the dementia ward of the facility last August. Though Murray’s family was able to be there before she died, they were not immediately notified of her injuries.

“Ruthie’s Law” is designed to keep that from happening again.

The law requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to report a patient’s injuries to their designated representative “as soon as practical,” but not later than two hours after the injuries were discovered. Nursing home facilities must also provide reports to the Commissioner detailing reportable events twice a year.

“Our elderly are some of our most vulnerable residents and I think it’s very important that we do all we can to protect them,” said Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon. “What Ruthie’s Law does, is it really gives us an extra tool in the toolbox, if you will, to take care of those that are most vulnerable.”

Ruthie’s Law gives sole jurisdiction to Erie County’s Department of Senior Services to enforce the provisions.

“While we believe that the nursing homes do wonderful work in our community, and as we’re living longer, I think more of us are finding that we have to put our parents, our grandparents in assisted living or nursing homes. And so we always have to look at ways we can improve upon the care for them,” Dixon said.

“It does give the families some peace of mind because you can’t be there 24/7. You can’t monitor them all the time. You can’t know every moment of every day what’s happening in that nursing home.”

The administration of County Executive Mark Poloncarz first proposed “Ruthie’s Law” earlier in the year. A public hearing must be held before Poloncarz can officially sign the bill into law.