Bloomberg Law
March 30, 2020, 3:39 PM

Convert Some Nursing Homes for Covid-19 Treatment, Industry Says

Tony Pugh
Tony Pugh

States should direct nursing homes to create segregated units for Covid-19 patients as the facilities take on more overflow patients from nearby hospitals overwhelmed by the pandemic, an industry group said.

They should also explore moving nursing home residents to other facilities to establish dedicated Covid-19 treatment centers that can take hospital discharges, according to the American Health Care Association, which represents the nursing home industry.

That’s already happening in Massachusetts where 147 residents at the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Worcester are being relocated to turn the facility into a makeshift coronavirus treatment unit. State officials say the same thing could happen at more than 10 other facilities as the situation requires.

The nation’s nursing homes are seeing an explosion of Covid-19 outbreaks and deaths in spite of precautionary measures introduced nearly three weeks ago following the nation’s first outbreak at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Wash.

But “sending hospitalized patients who are likely harboring the virus to nursing homes that do not have the appropriate units, equipment and staff to accept COVID-19 patients is a recipe for disaster,” association president Mark Parkinson said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that at least 147 nursing homes in 27 states have at least one Covid-19 infection. That comes at a time when some nursing homes must police themselves on infection control measures due to a lack of state inspectors.

In Tennessee, more than 100 residents and staff at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing have tested positive for Covid-19. Infected residents were hospitalized and infected staff were being placed in home isolation. In Maryland, 11 residents of the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy have been hospitalized after more than 60 residents tested positive. At leas one resident has died.

After New York City ordered every nursing home to accept hospital patients both tested or untested in order to free up space for Covid-19 patients, multiple states are considering similar orders, the AHCA said. But doing so would be a mistake, the AHCA claims, because more than half of elderly Covid-19 patients show no symptoms and likely spread the disease for up to a week before becoming sick.

“The solution is for hospital patients to be discharged to nursing homes that can create segregated COVID-19 units and have the vital personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep the staff safe,” Parkinson added.

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