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Nursing Homes Need Help to Meet Tougher Covid-19 Recommendations

April 6, 2020, 7:59 PM

The nursing home industry, which is struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19, says it can’t comply with the Trump administration’s latest list of “critical recommendations” to stop the spread of disease in its facilities.

“Nursing homes are doing everything they can with the resources they have been given to slow the acceleration of the virus for our residents,” David Gifford, chief medical officer at the American Health Care Association, said in a statement.

But without adequate personal protective equipment, a healthy and fully staffed workforce, and priority testing of nursing home staff and residents for the coronavirus, “It is not possible to fully comply” with the April 2 directives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gifford said.

Nursing homes across the country have been overwhelmed by an explosion of Covid-19 outbreaks in recent weeks, even after the federal government moved weeks ago to restrict visitors at the facilities.

Guidance issued April 2 calls for nursing homes to conduct symptom screening for all staff and visitors, including temperature checks; use separate staffing teams based on residents’ Covid-19 status; and create separate facilities or units to segregate patients by Covid-19 status.

Gifford said the nursing home industry has acted on factors it can control. Facilities “desperately” need more protective gear and staffing to make further improvements, he said.

“Outbreaks are not the result of inattentiveness or a shortcoming in nursing homes,” Gifford said. “It’s the combination of the behavior of this virus and the type of conditions the people we care for have: an extremely vulnerable population who is typically elderly and with many underlying health conditions.”

The CMS, however, recently found that 36% of nursing homes that underwent recent inspections didn’t follow proper hand washing protocol, and one in four didn’t use protective equipment in the proper manner.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Pugh in Washington at tpugh@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com