A second surge of the COVID-19 virus is overwhelming huge areas of the United States, prompting the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) to deploy additional resources to protect nursing home residents. The plan, which was announced on July 22, includes providing staffing, testing equipment, and training to Medicare-certified nursing homes and veterans’ nursing homes.
“As caseloads continue to increase in areas around the country, it has never been more important that nursing homes have what they need to maintain a sturdy defense against the virus,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. These measures will help them do exactly that.”
The funds for these measures will come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with $5 billion earmarked for nursing homes as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Safety (CARES) Act. The funds are intended for nursing homes to hire staff and implement infection control programs. They are also intended for new services, such as technology to enable residents in isolation to meet virtually with visitors. This new funding is in addition to the $4.9 billion already given to the nursing homes to “offset revenue losses and assist nursing homes with additional costs related to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” according to the CMS.
In early July, the HHS announced it will begin sending 15,000 rapid point-of-care diagnostic testing devices to nursing homes, although the HHS said it will take months before all those tests are delivered. With these tests in place, the CMS will begin requiring that nursing homes test staff members weekly, but only for facilities in states with a positivity rate of 5% or higher. Currently, testing of nursing home staff is only recommended, despite the fact that transference from staff members is the likely cause of nearly all new cases inside nursing homes.
Infection Control Training Program
To qualify for CARES funding, nursing homes are required to participate in a new online training on COVID-19 best practices and infection control. The training has 23 education modules and will be made available to all 15,400 nursing homes in the country.
Although these CARES measures represent good news for nursing home residents, it is also another shameful milestone for the nursing home industry. COVID did not create the need for proper staffing, training, and equipment. The pandemic simply exposed how grossly mismanaged nursing homes are in the United States. The government has been forced to step in with nearly $10 billion in taxpayer funds to provide the most basic infection control resources, because the owners and operators of nursing homes shirked that responsibility. What will the nursing home industry learn from COVID? Will the industry recognize that it needs to make drastic investments to ensure infection control protocols or has the industry learned it can simply wait idly for the next deadly pandemic and the next government bailout?
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.