By Mike Dark, CANHR Staff Attorney After a ten-month battle with the most serious public health crisis in the history of long term care in the U.S., the cavalry is finally arriving, in the form of vaccines that have already been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by regulators. Still more vaccines await in the pipeline, perhaps for January or February.
On October 5, CANHR wrote the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) urging it to withdraw its deceptively named nursing home oversight plan – Quality and Safety State SNF Survey Model – that would divert its inspector workforce by requiring inspectors to conduct collaborative monitoring visits at skilled nursing facilities. CANHR’s letter also urges CDPH to rescind a new duty statement for nursing home inspectors that requires inspectors to spend 30 percent of their time advising and assisting nursing home operators on regulatory matters.
An October 2020 report by Altarum presents the findings of a survey of residents on how their lives have been impacted by the Covid-19 restrictions. Residents reported a drastic reduction in social activities and a steep increase in feelings of loneliness. The report – Experiences of Nursing Home Residents During the Pandemic – includes direct comments from residents in their own words that speak powerfully to the urgent need to end the extreme isolation that’s been imposed on them.
There’s a big election coming up in November. If you live in an assisted living or nursing facility, you should be aware that you do not lose your right to vote just because you move into long-term care. However, you might face a number of practical barriers to exercising your right to vote, and many of these barriers will be exacerbated in the context of COVID-19.CLICK HERE for guidance for residents planning to exercise their right to vote this November.
The White House’s Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes released an extensive report reviewing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and making recommendations to improve safety in nursing homes related to infection control. The report sets forth dozens of potential “action steps” for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other federal and state agencies to take to foster better infection control involving: COVID-19 testingproviding PPE and training staff to use itupdating resident visitation and cohorting policies to be more sensitive to the balance between safety and quality of life; andsupporting staff/caregivers.
On September 17th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a memo to the states, restoring visitation in nursing homes. CMS is requiring facilities to permit visitation whenever a facility has had no new COVID outbreaks for 14 days and the community positivity rate is less than 10%. Facilities required to permit visitation are encouraged to have outdoor visitation, weather permitting, but are also required to accommodate indoor visitation, including in resident rooms, when outdoor visits are unavailable.
Please help support SB 1207 (Jackson) by urging Governor Newsom to sign it. This critical bill codifies federal standards that require skilled nursing facilities to have an alternative source of power to protect resident health and safety and maintain safe temperatures for 96 hours during any type of power outage. CANHR and Long Term Care Ombudsman Services of San Luis Obispo County are co-sponsoring SB 1207.The Legislature gave final passage to SB 1207 on August 31 and sent it to the Governor for his signature.
CANHR has analyzed the twenty-five biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in California nursing homes and found that they have lower staffing and quality of care measures than the state averages. This is consistent with recent studies demonstrating a nursing home’s historical performance makes a difference when it comes to the extent of COVID outbreaks. Quality matters now more than ever in long term care.
Without question, the pandemic has been extraordinarily cruel to California nursing home residents. Over 4,000 residents have suffered and died alone from COVID-19, tens of thousands have been infected and residents have been locked away from their loved ones for nearly six months. Making matters worse, the state agency charged with protecting them – the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) – has turned its back on residents time and time again.
On August 25, the California Department of Public Health (DPH) issued All Facilities Letter 20-22.4 outlining some significant changes to the State’s ever-evolving guidance relating to visiting nursing homes and other health facilities during the COVID pandemic. The AFL makes clear that visitation restrictions cannot be absolute. Facilities may not bar any of the following: Visits by Ombudsmen: Facilities must permit ombudsmen in the facility.