The Nursing Home Industry Responds

Virginia’s long-term care facilities have come under close scrutiny during the COVID-19 epidemic, understandably so, considering that roughly 60% of all COVID-19 deaths in Virginia have afflicted patients living in long-term care facilities. The nursing home industry has remained remarkably quiet throughout the crisis. But yesterday I received a communication from Amy Hewett, vice president of strategy and communications for the Virginia Health Care Association.

Bacon’s Rebellion has been pretty tough on the nursing home industry and its regulators, so I thought it fair and reasonable reasonable to re-publish Hewett’s communication. Here, after deleting prefatory material, is what she had to say. — JAB

As you know, the coronavirus is of a particularly voracious nature. Even with the best infection control, it can spread at nursing homes and assisted living centers, which require high-touch care such as feeding, bathing and dressing residents – especially given the frequency of asymptomatic spread. The people we care for are high risk – not just now, but always. Public health policy must reorient itself to our community’s needs so we can do everything possible to keep our residents safe.

That said, confirmed coronavirus cases account for just 6% of all residents in our care. Long-term care facilities are taking significant steps to prevent further spread. Despite the challenges we face, most residents and staff members who are diagnosed with the virus make a full recovery – many without hospitalization. With the proper resources, we can ensure even more positive outcomes.

I wanted to pass along a few items that I thought would be of interest to you:

  • The World Health Organization recently called on policymakers to ensure we are not leaving long-term care facilities and the high-risk population they serve behind – not just now, but in the long-term as we are transitioning to a new normal.
  • A study by Harvard reports that the location of a long-term care facility has much more bearing on whether cases occur than other characteristics, including “Five-Star Rating on Nursing Home Compare; whether or not a facility had a prior violation with infection; or whether it was for-profit, part of a chain, or having a high Medicaid census.” These factors had no correlation with whether the facility had cases of COVID-19, said the researchers.
  • That sentiment was echoed yesterday at a Senate hearing looking at senior care amid the COVID-19 crisis. Dr. Tamara Konetzka, a professor of health economics and health services research at the University of Chicago, submitted testimony for the record on the topic, concluding that “no meaningful relationship between nursing home quality and the probability of at least one COVID-19 case or death” at nursing homes.
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