Wednesday, September 16, 2020
The New York Times asked the hard question, whether COVID deaths in SNFs were preventable, in a recently published opinion from the editorial board. How Many of These 68,000 Deaths Could Have Been Avoided?
Around 40 percent of all coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been among the staff and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities — totaling some 68,000 people.
Those deaths were not inevitable. The novel coronavirus is adept at spreading in congregant living facilities, and older people face an increased risk of contracting and dying from it. But most of the nation’s nursing homes had months of warning about the coming threat: One of the first coronavirus outbreaks in the country was in a nursing home near Seattle, making it clear that such facilities ought to prepare.
The opinion discusses steps SNFs could have taken to reduce the chances of spread, the financial model for SNFs in the US. The opinion also discusses the reduction of oversight and notes
Every effort should be made to ensure that the bulk of the money that the government puts into this industry goes to patient care, not providers’ pockets. An investigation started by the House of Representatives into the nation’s largest for-profit homes is a meaningful step in this direction. The Justice Department should follow suit.
The opinion discusses the way SNFs get supplies for their PPEs, etc. as well as staffing shortages. The editors conclude with 3 recommendations
In the near term, lawmakers should provide for hazard pay for nursing home workers in the next relief package and should require all nursing homes to enact non-punitive sick-leave policies so that workers don’t infect colleagues or residents.
In the longer term, federal officials need to consider revising Medicaid reimbursement rates for long-term care so they support higher than minimum-wage salaries, and shifting reimbursement policies so at least some long-term care can be reimbursed with Medicare dollars.
Lawmakers and nursing home operators also would do well to consider a national initiative, perhaps involving student volunteers and internship programs, to recruit future workers to nursing home care. That work, which can be deeply rewarding, will remain urgently needed long after this crisis passes.