Thursday, November 5, 2020
I think we can all recite the COVID #s from the spring vis a vis SNFs. Is the infection control process enough? Is more needed? The Washington Post recently published this story, As pandemic raged and thousands died, government regulators cleared most nursing homes of infection-control violations.
At the outset of a looming pandemic, just weeks after the first known coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil, the woman responsible for helping to protect 1.3 million residents in America’s nursing homes laid out an urgent strategy to slow the spread of infection.
In the suburbs of Seattle, federal inspectors had found the Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to properly care for ailing patients or alert authorities to a growing number of respiratory infections. At least 146 other nursing homes across the country had confirmed coronavirus cases in late March when Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, vowed to help “keep what happened in Kirkland from happening again.”
And yet, we know what happened. The plan was for complete "a series of newly strengthened inspections to ensure 15,400 Medicare-certified nursing homes were heeding long-standing regulations meant to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. It was another key component of a national effort, launched in early March, to shore up safety protocols for the country’s most fragile residents during an unprecedented health emergency." With that in mind, the Washington Post conducted an investigation and found that "during the first six months of the crisis [the inspectors] cleared nearly 8 in 10 nursing homes of any infection-control violations ...." The article notes that these facilities included those that had COVID outbreaks before the inspections and others that had outbreaks after inspections concluded there were no violations. We can all realize that with COVID, not every transmission can be prevented, but the article notes that "the number of homes flagged for infection-control violations remained about the same as last year."
The article gives examples of violations and fines discusses actions taken by CMS, the lack of consistency, the imposition of small fines, and gaps in communication, postponement of collecting fines and more. This is a lengthy detailed article that is important to read to order to have some understanding of how COVID was able to rampage through SNFS.
The Executive Director of the Long Term Care Coalition observed "“Nursing home residents were never more vulnerable in our lifetime, if ever... I don’t like to overuse the expression, but we literally abandoned them when the need for monitoring was the highest, when the need for quality assurance was the highest. They needed that oversight more than ever.”
And let's remember, the numbers of cases are spiking again. Have we learned any lessons from the spring?