Opinion | Why So Many Died of Covid in Nursing Homes

To the Editor: Re “Federal Response to Covid in Nursing Homes” (letter, Sept. 12): I…

Opinion | Why So Many Died of Covid in Nursing Homes

To the Editor:

Re “Federal Response to Covid in Nursing Homes” (letter, Sept. 12):

I am unable to accept the revisionist response from Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, to your Sept. 6 editorial criticizing the government for the high number of nursing home deaths.

Contrary to her assertion of “early, rapid action,” we found the response here in Lancaster County to be glacially slow and dangerously inefficient. Rather than a federally coordinated response to the pandemic, we were left to design our own response, in particular to the acquisition and distribution of personal protective equipment.

Early on during the pandemic, it became painfully apparent that within our community first responders and nursing home facilities were dangerously unprepared and ill equipped. Nursing home residents were being cared for without the most basic protection for health care providers, such as face masks. In response, a physician friend of mine and I organized a program to acquire and distribute P.P.E.

Tragically, dangerous inefficiencies persist in the federal response, particularly regarding mass testing. We remain dependent upon the stuttering governmental response as the pandemic continues to wreck our health and economy.

Lisa Rose
Radnor, Pa.
The writer’s mother died shortly after this letter was submitted. She never got a final visit.

To the Editor:

Your editorial is far-ranging in its critique of the nursing home industry and the Trump administration for the number of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, though I wish it had focused on the lack of any comprehensive national policy on long-term care as an underlying cause of the problems.

In commenting on the Justice Department’s investigation into certain states (notably, only states with Democratic governors) that allowed transfers of patients from hospitals to nursing homes, you say these transfers “were almost certainly unwise.” Our research in Michigan and other states disputes this statement.

Our analysis shows that Covid-19 patients not in need of hospital care can be safely transferred to nursing homes with the right safety protocols in place. The emphasis needs to be on ensuring adequate training, P.P.E., staffing and a specialized Covid-19 unit, not on ending the practice.

Marianne Udow-Phillips
Ann Arbor, Mich.
The writer is director of the Center for Health and Research Transformation at the University of Michigan.

To the Editor:

As the editorial noted, nursing homes and assisted living communities did not receive the assistance needed early in the pandemic. Though nursing homes care for one of the most vulnerable populations, the focus remained on hospitals. Lack of access to personal protective equipment and testing was a serious challenge.

However, it’s notable that independent research shows little correlation between outbreaks and quality ranking, ownership structure or staffing levels; instead, outbreaks are tied to spread of the virus in communities.

Longstanding staffing shortages and low Medicaid reimbursement rates have been compounded by the pandemic. Significant Covid-related costs have left many facilities on the brink of closure.

This is a historic challenge, one we must continue to confront together. Many of the issues the editorial identified have been the focus of long-term care providers for years. We hope Congress will now work with us to address them.

Mark Parkinson
The writer is the president and chief executive of American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.