Nursing home (Pikrepo photo)

By D. Kevin McNeir
Executive Editor 

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living [AHCA/NCAL], representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and long term care facilities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year, recently released the following statement after HHS announced $4.9 billion in funding to help skilled nursing facilities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We appreciate HHS sending this much-needed funding to skilled nursing facilities. Long term care providers are privileged to care for our country’s Greatest Generation. The Administration has given us the ability to care of them with the resources that they deserve,” said Mark Parkinson, president/CEO, AHCA/NCAL.

“We are working around the clock to protect the people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. That work makes this funding more important than ever. These resources are an important step toward ensuring residents in long term care facilities receive the vital support needed during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

“Given the gravity of the situation we are facing with this deadly virus and its impact on our vulnerable residents, long term care facilities require additional support and funding from state and federal governments to reduce its spread. Notably, assisted living communities have yet to receive any direct aid, despite also serving vulnerable seniors. While building on support received from HHS, we are asking for additional consideration for all long-term care facilities, whether it be in regard to additional testing, personal protective equipment, or funding.”

 “Long term care facilities appreciate the Administration’s support in prioritizing long term care residents. We need everyone around the country to rally around nursing homes and assisted living communities the same way they have around hospitals. We will continue to work with local, state and federal health officials to take every possible step to keep our nation’s long term care residents and staff safe,” Parkinson said.”

Additionally, AHCA/NCAL has provided a roadmap to governors to address long-term care workforce needs during the pandemic, outliningways state public health officials can help nursing homes and assisted living communities address workforce needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the roadmap, AHCA/NCAL offers possible solutions to states to help increase the number of clinical and support staff, protect caregivers while they serve their residents, help caregivers get to work and stay safe in the larger community, and support specific long term care facilities dealing with cases.

“Governors must take immediate action to help protect those currently on the frontlines and take proactive steps to recruit, train and deploy additional caregivers to ensure that residents continue to receive the daily care they need in our facilities. This is an ‘all hands-on deck’ situation.”

COVID-19 Results in Increased Demands on Staffs

Caregivers in long term care are rising to the challenge in responding to this threat.
However, COVID-19 has resulted in increased demands on staff. Residents must be isolated from others while still receiving the high-quality daily care and services they require. Coupled with the fact that some staff are unable to work because they are sick, lack childcare options with schools and daycares closed or have to be quarantined themselves – in part a consequence of inadequate availability of personal protective equipment [PPE] – a workforce shortage currently exists in long-term care settings.

Further, the organization anticipates additional workforce support will be needed as testing in long-term care facilities expands across the country and may identify staff members who are positive but asymptomatic.

And with all states now re-opening sectors of the economy, this increases the likelihood of staff members contracting the virus while out in the larger community. Residents in long-term care facilities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, and they require round-the-clock care and support from dedicated professionals.

Suggested ideas which the organization encourages governors and state health officials to explore include:

  • Making long-term care facilities a priority for PPE to protect current caregivers and residents from contracting the virus.
  • Making long-term care facilities a priority for timely testing of staff and residents to identify asymptomatic carriers and empower facilities to respond in a targeted way. States need to support facilities in administering tests and covering costs.
  • Allowing nurses and other medical professionals to cross state lines and allowing facilities to hire temporary caregivers and support staff, which will require relaxing state regulations.
  • Encouraging medical professionals to volunteer as we have seen them do for hospitals.
  • Deploying the National Guard to specific facilities with outbreaks to help with cleaning, testing, PPE, and staff support.

“We’ve seen inspiring images of nurses and doctors flying across the country to serve in our hospitals. We hope to see the same national support rally around our long-term care facilities,” Parkinson said. “We owe it to our residents, those from the Greatest Generation, to ensure they have the necessary support they need and deserve.”

Survey Shows Voters Support More Funding for Nursing Homes

According to a new national survey, a vast majority of U.S. voters believe long term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities, need more support from the government and the lack of support thus far has negatively impacted their ability to protect seniors. By a three-to-one margin, voters say that nursing homes and assisted living communities need more money for personal protective equipment (PPE), staff, and increased testing capabilities.

By an overwhelming margin, U.S. voters want the government to provide long-term care facilities with the same level of support as hospitals, including more than 80 percent of those over 65-years-old supporting an additional $10 billion in funding for long term care facilities to provide additional PPE, staff, and testing to residents, according to the survey conducted on May 6-9, among 1,500 U.S. registered voters by GS Strategy Group.

Highlights of the survey include:

  • By a three-to-one margin, voters say that nursing homes and assisted living communities need more money for supplies, staffing and increased testing capabilities.
  • 72 percent of voters agree that a lack of government funding has had a negative impact on the quality of care that residents of these facilities are receiving.
  • Nearly eight-out-of-ten voters support the federal government providing $10 billion in emergency relief funding for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Healthcare Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) which represents more than 14,000 long term care facilities including nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country, said the survey shows that Americans are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on long term care facilities and want their government leaders to rally around nursing homes and assisted living communities.

Parkinson had this to say:

“The American people want federal and state leaders to rally around nursing home and assisted living residents the same way we have around hospital patients and workers,” he said. “They understand this is an unprecedented health crisis requiring significant funding to protect residents and caregivers.”

“Long-term care providers can also be part of the solutions as the country recovers from the impacts of COVID-19, but we need the tools to do so,” Parkinson added.

Finally, a recent state by state breakdown of the estimated cost to test every nursing home resident and staff just once, indicates an expenditure of nearly $440 million nationwide. Nearly 3 million tests (2,931,478) tests would be needed to test every nursing home resident and staff in the U.S., not including the cost to test residents and staff at assisted living and other long-term care facilities.
Even the CDC’s recent recommendation to test all nursing home staff weekly would cost more than $1 billion every month.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living [AHCA/NCAL] represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day.

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This story was produced as part of a four-month COVID-19 reporting fellowship with NJ ethnic and community media organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

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