ALBANY, NY – A New York State Comptroller audit has found that the state’s Department of Health was unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.

NewsChannel 34’s Jamie DeLine spoke with Comptroller Tom DiNapoli today about what changes he’s recommending.

New York State comptroller Tom DiNapoli tells me he wasn’t surprised with the Audit findings, but is disappointed that it confirmed what families who lost loved ones were feeling.

“So many NY families lost loved ones and feel very much that the system let them down,” says DiNapoli.

The comptroller’s audit finding that the New York State Department of health underestimated nursing home COVID deaths by 4,100 and at times, more than 50 percent during the pandemic. It adds DOH was unprepared to respond to infectious disease outbreaks in nursing homes, even prior to the pandemic.

“With the underreporting of the deaths, relatively early on in the pandemic, the department of health corrected internally their accounting and the numbers. But, that never got out to the public. So there was in effect a misuse of information at the higher levels of leadership in the state beyond the department. So in effect, the department from my perspective had the responsibility to get the real story out. And they seemed unable to do that,” says DiNapoli.

The comptroller now providing a list of recommendations to fix some of these issues.

“So what we are really talking about for the executive, for the Governor’s office is they really need to examine how communications are handled and to make sure data and information is not manipulated to put a narrative out there that is contrary to the facts,” says DiNapoli.

The DOH says it appreciates the goals of the audit, but doesn’t agree on all of its conclusions.

Former Governor Cuomo was in office during the majority of the time of audit. His spokesperson saying,

“As the number of out of facility deaths were reported last January, this is not news, however what is peculiar is the comptrollers release of the audit now. — But no one has ever accused him of being above politics. “

Stephen Hanse, president of the New York State Health Facilities association says Governor Hochul’s proposed budget invests in long term care and he believes it will help reverse years of disinvestment.

“Caring for the elderly and most vulnerable is a partnership. It’s a partnership between providers and government,” says Hanse.