New York, New Jersey Require Nursing Homes to Accept Patients who are Still Recovering From COVID-19
Nursing Homes Should Not Be Forced to Admit COVID 19 Positive Patients
May 4, 2020
By: Marcel Gemme
The COVID-19 pandemic has been harsher on America's senior population than any other demographic. This is especially true of the significant subset of seniors who live in long-term care facilities like nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Healthcare establishments have been struck hard, with news stories coming in at an alarming rate from all over the nation.
The numbers are sickening, with some individual facilities reporting up to 70 deaths and over 100 confirmed cases between residents and staff. Some sources report estimates of 10,000 deaths among nursing home residents so far in the United States. But that hasn't stopped fuel from being added to the fire.
Some states are requiring nursing homes to accept patients from hospitals who are still recovering from COVID-19. This is because areas that are particularly hard hit by the virus are running out of beds and have nowhere to treat the influx of ill patients. In the states that have approved it, patients who've begun to recover but are too sick to return home may get transferred to skilled nursing facilities to make more room for new patients at the hospital.
The states which have implemented this so far are New York and New Jersey. They've ordered their nursing homes to admit patients regardless of their COVID-19 status. California developed a similar directive but changed it at the last minute after too much public uproar. It now reads that nursing homes should expect to receive COVID-19 positive patients if the facility can follow the CDC's infection control guidelines. So, those nursing homes suffering from the nationwide supply shortages which prevent them from proper infection control measures wouldn't be forced to take viral patients into their facility.
Many people have spoken out against this practice because it could require nursing homes that have been sheltered and had no COVID-19 exposure to accept patients that could cause an outbreak. Not only would this hurt the nursing home and its residents, but it may hurt hospitals, too. Every COVID-19 positive patient who infected others after being transferred from a hospital to a nursing home could mean dozens more infected patients potentially filling up that same hospital within a couple of weeks.
Again, we're talking about randomly introducing new people, some of whom we know have the virus and are infectious, into a group of the world's most at-risk population who live in a tight-knit, communal setting. It represents the opposite of everything we know and have been advised to do.
On top of this, nursing homes are already at staffing minimums since the release of updated CDC guidelines, specific to COVID-19 prevention for long-term care facilities. Since workers are the only ones who come and go, they restricted the number of workers coming and going to help flatten the curve.
The problem of hospitals being overwhelmed needs to be solved. But other states have managed to solve similar problems. To handle the imminent risk to its nursing homes, Connecticut has taken the approach of reopening closed-down nursing homes for exclusively treating COVID-19 positive nursing home patients. While this is only being used for long term care facility patients rather than overwhelmed hospital discharge patients, it could be implemented to solve the problem we see in the harder-hit states.
Their hospitals could discharge recovering COVID-19 positive patients to these segregated specialty facilities, so there's no risk of new infections. Overflow patients who test negative could go to the other safe nursing homes or temporary facilities. Louisiana is doing something similar, where nursing home patients who test positive for COVID-19 are sent to temporary Tier 2 (non-emergency) facilities the state is utilizing until they fully recover. Only then can they return to the nursing home without risk of infecting others.
These are trying times. We've never experienced anything like this before, so there is no set way to handle this. We're learning as we go, sometimes inventing solutions on the fly. Not all of them are reasonable or appropriate solutions and are ill-conceived. Utilizing nursing homes to offload patients who are still infectious seems to be such an example. Let's hope these states come to their senses.
About the author
Marcel Gemme has dedicated his life to helping others find help. He started his career in the field of substance abuse 20 years ago and has helped countless families find proper rehabilitation and treatment for their loved ones. He now focuses his attention on helping individuals find long-term Senior Care, he does this through his journalism, community outreach, and his website, ECDOL.org. Excellent Care, Decency, and Optimal Living are what he aims to bring to individuals looking for care options for themselves or their aging loved ones.