State taking stronger approach to protecting nursing homes from potential COVID-19 second wave

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Women’s Bipartisan Legislative Caucus met at the State Capitol to discuss COVID-19 and its impact on nursing home residents, their families, and staff Tuesday morning.

63% of the coronavirus deaths in Connecticut happened in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. State lawmakers say they’re ready to “drop the hammer” on that industry.

Right now, the state is working with nursing homes and healthcare facilities to be prepared for a potential fall wave of COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: 8 days from phase 2 reopening, Gov. Lamont releases guidelines for nursing homes, assisted living facilities

This will include investigating and evaluating how nursing homes have handled and reported coronavirus cases.

Rep. Toni Walker (D – New Haven) said, “we have had somewhat of a hands-off approach. We can’t do that anymore. These are peoples’ lives.”

Complaints at facilities range from not enough protective gear for workers to testing not being available, to delayed reporting of positive cases and under-staffing.

During the Caucus, Rep. Michelle Cook (D-Torrington) spoke of her father-in-law, William Cook, a Korean War Veteran who was brought to the hospital from his nursing home and ended up dying from COVID-19 complications. The nursing home told the family there were no coronavirus cases at his nursing home, but emergency room doctors and nurses told them otherwise.

Rep. Cook said, “I would just think that that would be human kindness and compassion to notify family members that there is a pandemic, that there is a flu outbreak, that there is a COVID outbreak in a facility.”

All of this as visitation with loved ones was cut off for months. Matt Barrett, CEO CT Assoc. of Health Care Facilities & CT Center for Assisted Living said, “any facility that fell short of that should be held accountable.”

RELATED: More than 9,550 residents at nursing homes, assisted living facilities in CT test positive for COVID-19

Meantime, if you currently want to visit a loved one, they have to be negative for the virus. As do you, and you have to call ahead. Some facilities have set up tents for outdoor visits.

Gov. Ned Lamont (D) Connecticut said, “We gotta think about nursing homes going forward: what’s the best place for Grandma and Grandpa to be? Should we make it easier for folks to stay at home and have the home healthcare they need?”

Gov. Lamont told News 8 the state is in the process of hiring outside investigators to look at both the nursing home industry and the State Dept. of Public Health and their roles in all of this. Who knew what when? And what was the response with regard to COVID cases?

There are over 200 nursing homes and assisted living complexes in Connecticut. Over 10,000 people are employed at these facilities across the state.

$1.2 billion of state money goes into funding Connecticut nursing homes.

Since the start of the pandemic, around 2,500 Connecticut nursing homes patients have died from COVID-19.

RELATED: Governor Lamont signs new Executive Order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in nursing homes

Mag Morelli, President of LeadingAge Connecticut and Matt Barrett released a joint statement in response to Women’s Bipartisan Legislative Caucus Recommendations for the Governor’s Independent Review of Connecticut’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Response:

The associations expressed agreement with the Caucus’ recommendation that the review thoroughly evaluates our state’s response in a non-biased and inclusive way so as to learn from the science and help our state prepare for a potential second wave of the virus.

The review must be inclusive of the response and actions of the federal government, the state government, and the skilled nursing facility sector at each juncture of the pandemic’s timeline and the evolution of our knowledge of the virus. For instance, the extent of the asymptomatic nature of the virus was unknown in the early stages of the pandemic – a critical characteristic that hampered prevention and containment strategies.

The associations also specifically addressed three issues raised at today’s Caucus event.

1.      The regulatory oversight and inspections conducted by the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH): The associations encourage a deep review of the unprecedented DPH Covid-19 inspections of nursing homes.  The associations firmly believe that such a review will demonstrate that the DPH Covid-19 nursing home inspection and oversight efforts are very likely the most comprehensive in the nation.  No state has inspected nursing homes during the pandemic to the extent Connecticut regulators have. All 213 nursing homes have now been inspected numerous times, with some homes surveyed as many as 5 times. The DPH nursing home inspections have included the assistance of the Connecticut National Guard, the CDC, and now will also [include] the addition [of] DPH nurse monitors. 

Today’s news media is reporting that that thousands of nursing homes across the country have not yet been inspected at all during this pandemic and the associations assert that no other state is even close to Connecticut’s level of regulatory intervention. 

2.      PPE Supply:  The associations challenge the assertion that nursing homes should have procured PPE in sufficient amounts to address the length of the pandemic in its entirety. Nursing homes did have initial supplies of PPE, but like the rest of the health care field, their ability to replenish the supply was severely hampered by the very real lack of supply on a global level. This was not a state issue or a nursing home issue – it was and is a national issue that was faced by every health care professional across the country. The associations believe that a comprehensive review will demonstrate the need to enhance the global and national supply chain of PPE.

3.      Covid-19 Funding Accountability: The associations clarified that any additional state funding received for the purpose of meeting Covid-19 expenses will be accounted for and audited by state officials.

The nursing home associations also request that the study include a thorough review of the sufficiency of the state’s financial support for nursing homes, both before and during the pandemic, including the longstanding shortfall in state Medicaid funding.

The state’s experience is part of a national pandemic and in such, our preparation and response was influenced not only by our state’s efforts but also by the federal response. As such, the nursing home associations recommend that the analysis includes the role of the changing CDC guidance, the inadequate national supply of PPE, and the delay in testing capacity.  In addition, since the goal of this study will be to learn and prepare for the potential fall resurgence, it must include consideration of the positive role that the Covid-19 Recover Centers will achieve to reduce the spread of the virus in anticipation of the fall resurgence.   

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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