As many states see surges in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospices will likely see a continuation of significant difficulties in accessing patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which has been a persistent problem since the onset of the pandemic.
Many states had begun relaxing some of the restrictions that were enacted to curb the spread of the virus, including multi-phase plans to reopen facilities for seniors, only to see cases begin to spike. Nursing home and senior living industry groups warn that further government action is needed to protect residents of those facilities and those who care for them, including hospice staff.
“Given the fact that the level of COVID in the community surrounding a nursing home is a leading indicator of cases in the facility, the major spikes of COVID cases in many states comes at a very challenging time as many states plan the reopening of long term care facilities and return of visitations from loved ones,” said the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) in a letter to the nation’s governors. “Reopening long term care facilities is important for our residents’ well being and caregivers and providers recognize the importance of visitations of family and friends. To accomplish this goal, nursing homes and assisted living communities need additional support from federal and state public health agencies in order to protect residents and caregivers.”
The coronavirus has hit these facilities hard, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that nursing home populations are at the highest risk of infection. The U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced critical measures to help prevent spreading the virus.
More than half of hospice provider respondents to a Hospice News reader survey indicated that they believed their organizations would benefit from the states’ “reopening,” compared to 30% of respondents who said it would have a negative impact. Slightly less than 20% felt the removal of restrictions would not impact their clinical or business operations at all.
A key factor in these results was the expectation that it would become easier for hospices to access patients receiving care in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. But as cases continue to rise, those hopes may be dashed for the time being.
AHCA/NCAL called on states to expedite lab processing to ensure timely results for COVID-19 testing, as well as additional resources for obtaining personnel protective equipment, which have been in short supply and high demand in all health care sectors during the outbreak.
“Nursing homes and assisted living communities cannot stop the virus by ourselves – not without testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), staff support and funding, and not without support from the public health sector,” AHCA and NCAL indicated in the letter.