The Washington Post on April 2, 2020 reported that a nursing home in Washington State linked to 37 Covid-19 deaths faces a fine of more than $611,000 and could lose its Medicare and Medicaid funding if it does not correct a slew of deficiencies. According to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to report an outbreak of respiratory illness to local authorities for two weeks as required by law, provided inadequate care and failed to provide 24 hour emergency doctor service. In total, 129 residents, staff and visitors linked to the nursing home have been infected with coronavirus. Eighty-one of the 120 residents have been infected. Thirty-four of the 120 residents died. Even after it knew of the surge in respiratory illnesses, the nursing home continued admitting new patients and holding events such as a Mardi Gras party for residents and visitors.
Unfortunately, according to Carolyn Casey, J.D., more than 73 care facilities in 22 states have reported COVID-19 infections. Infections in nursing homes need to be avoided because many residents are advanced in age and possess serious pre-existing health issues, including respiratory diseases like COPD or asthma. Nursing home residents live in close quarters, share common areas with other residents and are exposed to health care workers multiple times each day.
Because of these risks every nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid is required to have a Pandemic Plan. The coronavirus should have triggered every nursing home’s Pandemic Plan. In addition to its Pandemic Plan, nursing homes are receiving instructions on how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. A joint update from the American Healthcare Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living on February 29, 2020 instructed health facilities to follow a number of protocols:
- Monitor staff and visitors for hand washing or use of alcohol hand gels
- Review contact isolation procedures and ensure staff follows them consistently
- Restrict the use of common areas to prevent the spread to other residents and staff
- Remind staff, contractors, volunteers to stay home if they are sick
- Starting now, post notices for visitors who are sick to stop visiting and work with families on alternate ways to visit their family members, like Skype, phone calls and email
- Check with the local health department if they are recommending more restrictive criteria for visitations as COVID-19 spreads
- Stay in close contact with your local and state health department
- Make sure your infection preventionist signs up for health department and CDC announcements
- Monitor the CDC COVID-19 website for the latest information on coronavirus prevention strategies, testing guidance, and recommendations for health care workers
The CDC issued additional guidance recommending that nursing homes:
- Restrict all visitation except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life situations
- Restrict all volunteers and non-essential healthcare personnel (HCP), including non-essential healthcare personnel (e.g., barbers)
- Cancel all group activities and communal dining
- Implement active screening of residents and HCP for fever and respiratory symptoms
Nursing homes are required to provide for the needs of their residents. Residents and their families must trust that nursing homes will execute their Pandemic Plans and follow industry guidelines. If you have concerns that your loved one’s nursing home is not doing its part to prevent coronavirus infections, please contact us for guidance on how you can help.