In the name of keeping people safe from COVID-19, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is yet again exposing those living in nursing homes or needing nursing home care to grave danger. With remarkably little public attention, the Department has signed up dangerous and worrisome nursing homes in the County to serve as dedicated COVID-19 facilities for hospitals to use as discharge sites for COVID patients.
Does California have the money to maintain its vital programs that are aimed at keeping people who need long term care at home and out of nursing homes? It turns out it does, but the Administration has decided to terminate, gut and slash those programs in order to further enrich unscrupulous nursing home operators who are using the pandemic as cover for their latest money grab at the Capitol.
A new GAO study has found an extraordinary number of nursing homes have been cited for poor infection control practices in recent years and state nursing home enforcement agencies almost never find these poor practices harmful. The GAO reports that 82% of the nation’s nursing homes were cited for bad infection prevention in 2013-2017, ranging from staff members failing to wash their hands to failing to isolate sick and infectious residents.
The massive budget cuts proposed in the Governor’s May Revise are tragic, and represent the loss of services and assistance to millions of Californians when they need it most. The loss of revenue due to the Coronavirus is real and many budget cuts are undoubtedly necessary, but many of the cuts to services for frail seniors and the disabled leave them with few options other than nursing homes, which are responsible for over 40% of the COVID-19 deaths in California.
On May 18, 2020, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new guidance seeking to perpetuate the extreme isolation of nursing home residents throughout the nation, perhaps for months or years to come. Declaring that “we are not at a point where nursing homes can safely open up,” CMS established reopening criteria that few nursing homes will ever meet, such as “no staffing shortages.” The guidance describes a three-phase process in which current visitation restrictions would not be eased until phase 3 after a nursing home has had no new COVID cases for 28 days and is not experiencing staff shortages. Short staffing is a primary reason to restore visitation, not to prohibit it.
Since the outset of the pandemic, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued a flurry of directives to skilled nursing facilities and other health care facilities in the form of All Facility Letters, or AFLs as they are known to providers. As of May 14, 2020, CDPH had issued 52 such letters, considerably more than it issued in all of 2019.
The California Department of Social Services (DSS) recently released a new Provider Information Notice (PIN) 20-17 that offers to pay assisted living facilities, including Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) and Adult Residential Facilities (ARFs), $1,000/day for taking COVID-19 patients. The PIN is another shocking misstep in the state’s long term care policy during the pandemic, putting current residents at severe risk of sickness and death. CANHR was told by DSS representatives that its goal is to have COVID-19 residents of assisted living facilities, identified as testing frequency increases, transferred to COVID-19-only facilities to isolate them. Nonetheless, the PIN permits and maybe encourages mixing COVID-19 positive and negative residents in assisted living facilities.
Courtesy of Consumer Voice: Consumer Voice has sent a letter, along with other advocacy organizations, to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing granting immunity to nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. AARP also sent a letter on the same topic. Giving immunity to nursing homes strips residents of their right to hold nursing homes accountable for substandard care.
California Is Still Keeping the Public in The Dark on Covid-19’s Deadly Impact on Long Term Care Facility Residents In the two months since Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency in California, state officials have kept a very tight lid on data about deadly conditions in the long-term care facilities that are ground zero for the pandemic.
Visitation is one of the most important and meaningful rights of long term care facility residents. Both U.S. and California law guarantee very broad access for residents to visit with friends, families, and others who provide critical support. With the arrival of COVID-19 into the United States, the visitation rights of residents were one of its first casualties.