A new analysis by City and State asks whether New York’s nursing home facilities are prepared for another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Noting that while long-term care facilities have so far accounted for about 8% of Covid-19 cases, they have comprised about 40% of US fatalities from the disease. In New York especially, there have been 27,307 total Covid-19 deaths, of which 6,967 confirmed or presumed Covid-19 fatalities took place in nursing home facilities, a number that excludes residents who died outside of the facility. While nursing homes have improved their policies and procedures when it comes to Covid-19 since the virus initially struck, City and State argues, “there are still vulnerabilities that could leave nursing-home residents and staff at risk again.”
On the positive side, nursing homes are more likely to have more consistent access to tests and personal protective equipment, the analysis suggests. Nursing homes have already been conducting regular testing of all employees, and are required to have a 60-day supply of PPE. Additionally, a state rule has been reversed that in the spring led to nursing homes accepting Covid-19 patients from hospitals, spreading the virus throughout facilities.
Still, City and State argues, other difficulties remain. One major challenge is understaffing, already a problem before the pandemic, but now exacerbated by “stressful working conditions and low pay.” As the report notes, “Fewer staff makes it more difficult to effectively help residents take health precautions, identify possible illness and overall can lead to worse care.” Experts cited in the analysis recommend dealing with tis problem by increasing staff pay, which will help mitigate a related problem, employees who work at several facilities because they don’t make a living wage working at one.
One official at the advocacy group Long Term Community Care Coalition told City and State that he does not feel nursing home facilities are generally prepared for another wave of Covid-19, arguing that “low staffing and poor adherence to infection control strategies, such as regular hand washing, remained lacking at many sites.”
Another potential issue is that it may be difficult to control outbreaks in nursing homes as hospitalizations rise across the state, reducing available hospital space and ICU beds. The report notes, however, that these risks may also be mitigated as nursing home residents and staff start receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. While residents and staff are prioritized in the state’s distribution plan, “distribution… hinges on people consenting to taking it,” the report cautions, citing one expert who says “You’re already seeing people are saying that they’re not going to take it… Residents, they could say that they’re not going to take it.”
More information on the challenges awaiting New York’s nursing homes in the event of another wave of Covid-19 is available via City and State.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.