Kaiser Health News (June 26)
America’s health care workers are dying. In some states, medical personnel account for as many as 20% of known coronavirus cases. They tend to patients in hospitals, treating them, serving them food and cleaning their rooms. Others at risk work in nursing homes or are employed as home health aides.“ Lost on the Frontline,” a collaboration between KHN and The Guardian, has identified 697 such workers who likely died of COVID-19 after helping patients during the pandemic.
Some Long-Term Care Facilities Passing Expenses On To Residents Amid COVID-19 Pandemic.
USA Today (6/25, Nadolny, Kwiatkowski) reports the long-term care industry “has scrambled to contend with mounting costs” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with many seeking to pass these expenses on to residents. Residents and families in at least eight states “have complained to their state attorney general or long-term care ombudsman about unfair billing practices related to the pandemic.” Complaints “include facilities raising rent for all residents, charging for meal delivery and personal protective equipment, siphoning stimulus checks and requiring residents to pay for 24-hour care before they can return from the hospital.”
Pennsylvania Health Department Paying CVS Health Up To $9.5M For Coronavirus Testing In Nursing Homes.
The Inquirer (PA) (6/25, Burling) reports “the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced this week that it will pay CVS Health up to $9.5 million to test 50,000 residents and staff members of the state’s 693 nursing homes for the coronavirus.” That is “about a quarter of the 80,000 residents and 115,000 staff the state says are in nursing homes.” Funding for the “partnership comes from the” CDC.
Democratic State Senators Call On New York Governor To Overhaul Oversight Of Nursing Homes.
The New York Post (6/25, Campanile, Hogan) reports “a cadre of [Democratic] state senators are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to enact a sweeping overhaul of nursing home oversight – amid criticism that his administration’s COVID-19 policies contributed to deaths of elderly residents during the pandemic’s peak.” The 22 New York lawmakers “recommended a nine-point plan to improve transparency and accountability – including reporting the deaths of nursing home residents while in the care of hospitals, according to a letter obtained by The Post.”
Kentucky Residents Will Soon Be Albe To Visit Loved Ones In Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Centers.
The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (6/25, Yetter) reports that “after more than three months, people soon will be able to resume visiting friends and loved ones in settings such as nursing homes and assisted living and personal care homes, [Kentucky] public health officials announced Thursday.” Such visits were put on hold “in March to try to control the spread of the coronavirus in facilities that house older or medically vulnerable people.” However, “on June 29, visits to personal care and assisted living homes will resume.” Meanwhile, “visits to nursing homes and residential facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities will resume July 15.”
Massachusetts Governor: Report On Coronavirus Outbreak At Veterans’ Home “Gut-Wrenching.”
CNN (6/25, Holcombe, Cummings) reports that an investigation “into a Massachusetts veterans’ home during the Covid-19 outbreak found errors that Gov. Charlie Baker called ‘gut-wrenching’ and hard to read.” The home “has been under multiple investigations since April, when nearly 30 residents who tested positive for the coronavirus at the time had died.” The facility’s mortality rate “is typically 10 to 12 veterans per month, the report said.”
Two Republican State Lawmakers Petition Michigan Governor For Nursing Home Records.
The Detroit News (6/25, Mauger) reports two Republican state lawmakers “who lead an oversight committee are asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to hand over internal documents related to COVID-19 and nursing homes in Michigan.” Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, and Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, “sent a three-page letter making the request of the Democratic governor Thursday.” In the letter, the lawmakers “floated the idea of issuing subpoenas to obtain the records if Whitmer doesn’t provide them.”
Iowa Nursing Home Accused Of Allowing Employees Who Exhibited Symptoms Of Coronavirus To Work.
The Des Moines (IA) Register (6/24, Kauffman) reports “an Iowa nursing home where 11 residents have died of COVID-19 is accused of allowing its employees to work while exhibiting symptoms of the virus.” According to the state’s “Department of Inspections and Appeals, Dubuque Specialty Care, a skilled nursing facility for seniors, was visited by inspectors the first week of June for a review of infection-control procedures.” The “inspectors discovered the facility had allowed three workers with coronavirus symptoms to continue working and, on two of the four days in which the inspectors were present, employees were observed working without personal protective equipment.”
Investigators Say “Utterly Baffling” Decisions Led To Coronavirus Outbreak In Massachusetts Veterans’ Home That Killed Almost 80.
The AP (6/24, Richer) reports “the leadership of a home for aging veterans in Massachusetts where nearly 80 residents sickened with the coronavirus have died packed dementia patients into a crowded unit as the virus spread, one of several ‘utterly baffling’ decisions that helped the disease run rampant, investigators said in a report released Wednesday.” Holyoke Soldiers’ Home’s superintendent “was not qualified to run a long-term care facility and ‘substantial errors and failures’ he and his team made likely contributed to the high death toll there, investigators found.” Among the errors “was a decision prompted by staffing shortages to combine two locked dementia units, both of which already housed some residents with the virus.”
The Wall Street Journal (6/24, Kamp, Subscription Publication) reports that issues at the veterans’ home included a failure to prevent employees from rotating between units and delays in shutting down common spaces, the report says.
The Boston Globe (6/24, MacQuarrie) reports “the catastrophe was exacerbated by a days-long string of poorly communicated and misunderstood information that began flowing to state officials from Superintendent Bennett Walsh, according to the state review.” Furthermore, “transparency was lacking throughout the ordeal, according to the report.”
The Boston Herald (6/24, Kashinsky, Cotter) says the report comes from “former federal prosecutor Mark W. Pearlstein, who was tapped by Gov. Charlie Baker (R) in April to conduct an independent investigation into the home.” The report “cited the home’s failure to properly isolate patients and to stop staff from floating between units, its delays in testing symptomatic veterans and closing common spaces, and its inconsistent practices for personal protective equipment, along with record-keeping failures.”
The Detroit News (6/24, Mauger) reports “the Michigan Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would steer elderly individuals with COVID-19 away from nursing homes in a direct challenge to a plan implemented by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) administration.” The “Senate approved prohibiting nursing homes from caring for people who test positive for COVID-19 unless the individuals have recovered or the facilities have demonstrated they can properly provide the ‘necessary’ care.” The move, “which would require the Democratic governor’s signature to become law, would take effect Sept. 15.”
Opinion: New York Governor’s Decision Likely Contributed To Thousands Of Nursing Home Deaths.
In an opinion piece for the New York Post (6/24), Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) writes: “As the ranking member of the US House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, I am charged with investigating ‘preparedness for and response to the coronavirus crisis.’ By all accounts, New York’s handling of the crisis in its nursing homes has been a colossal failure.” Scalise writes, “Our investigation centers on Gov. Cuomo’s decision, on March 25, to force nursing homes to accept known COVID-positive patients while also prohibiting homes from even testing patients for COVID-19 prior to admission. This policy, which remained in place for more than six weeks, likely contributed significantly to the thousands of elderly deaths in New York nursing homes.”