Thursday, October 29, 2020
Earlier this week I posted about the nursing homes seeking additional $ from the federal government because of the number of COVID 19 cases. I thought this article in TIME magazine, COVID-19 Is Still Devastating Nursing Homes. The Trump Administration Isn't Doing Much to Stop It, provided a nice follow up.
Ar least 75,000 Americans in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have already died from COVID-19—and the devastation is far from over. After a decrease earlier this summer, the death toll is now rising once again, and as the country heads into the fall and then flu season, millions of Americans who require institutional long-term care remain at the greatest risk.
But, so far, the Trump Administration has talked a big talk—and mostly failed to deliver.
There have been issues with the amount and quantity of the PPEs sent to facilities, CMS hasn't ensured that SNFS will have s sufficient supply of COVID test kits and there was nothing specific for SNFs in the latest relief package. The article discusses the lack of a coordinated federal response and what assistance is provided comes with new requirements. For example, as pertains to the new testing requirements:
The Administration’s new testing schedule assigns counties to “green,” “yellow” or “red” categories based on their rate of positive COVID-19 tests, and requires that nursing homes test their staff as often as twice weekly depending on the severity of their location. They must also test all residents during any outbreak or whenever a new COVID-19 case is identified. Facilities can face steep fines if they don’t comply and must keep up with testing to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, which are the industry’s main source of income.
So why is this problematic? The article offers this insight
Those requirements are fine in theory, industry experts say, but they don’t reflect the reality on the ground. If nursing homes test at the required frequency, the supply of free tests provided by HHS will run out rapidly. Long-term care facilities, which are often financially stretched, will be required to purchase more tests on their own.
There is also concern about the sustainability of the current model of nursing home care and notes the problem with adequate staffing.
The staffing issue is even thornier. Nursing homes typically operate on thin margins, and long-term care workers—mostly poor women of color—are underpaid and overworked in the best of times. During the pandemic, staffers have been falling ill themselves, staying home to care for family members or children who are attending school remotely, and leaving the field for less dangerous jobs. While Congressional Democrats pushed for hazard pay for frontline workers this spring and included it in their relief bill that passed the House in May, no federal plan has been approved. Without specific money dedicated to worker salaries, long-term care facilities say they can’t hire the staff they need.