While everyone is vulnerable to Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus, senior citizens and those with underlying conditions are most at risk. The age most at risk is the nursing home population, and as of this writing, the Life Care Center nursing home, Kirkland, Washington, has the highest death rate from this pandemic at one site in the nation, at 29. That number continues to rise. Approximately one-third of Life Care Center’s employees have also tested positive for Covid-19.
The nursing home faced issues previously, as recently as April 2019. That was when it received a $67,000 fine for failing to control infection properly after a woman reported that staff allowed an open wound on her mother’s heel to touch the floor. The problem was swiftly resolved.
However, before the pandemic and the national shutdown, the Trump Administration has been at work trying to relax standards regarding the country’s nursing home facilities. Their actions include rules in place to reduce serious patient infections. Infections are a leading cause of death in nursing homes. According to CMA statistics, about 380,000 die annually from infections in nursing homes –a number bound to rise considerably with the onset of Covid-19.
Weakening Obama Administration Rules
The Obama administration adopted regulations requiring every nursing home to have an infection prevention specialist. Any infection is more severe in the old and sick. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) proposed rules in July that would get rid of the requirement for even a part-time on-staff infection prevention specialist.
The new rules would only require, vaguely, that such a specialist spends “sufficient” time at such facilities. The bottom line is that the rule change would mean there is less infection control at a time when it is needed more than ever.
In April 2019, the Trump Administration sought ideas on reducing standards of care in nursing homes. As the Center for Medicare Advocacy (“CMA”) reported at the time, the 2016 rules passed by the Obama Administration took “a strong stand on infections.”
At the time, CMS cited the high cost of infection, along with “poor resident outcomes,” defended the reason for detailed standards. That is when Obama CMS devised a new position known as infection preventionist who was responsible for a facility’s implementation of an “infection prevention and control program,” or IPCP.
Those rules required that only an employee with the educational and experience qualifications could implement an IPCP. CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) collaborated on a “Nursing Home Infection Preventionist Training Program,” so that infection control specialists could receive the necessary training for oversight of their facilities.
The CMA questioned whether the Trump Administration would take the side of the nursing home industry, which supports less regulation, and eliminate the 2016 standards of care, or support the current regulations. If the current rules were enforced properly, nursing home residents would suffer from fewer infections and hospitalizations. Fewer deaths due to infection would occur, and Medicare would save a great deal of money.
It turns out the Trump Administration opted for changes in the regulations and less oversight.
Attorneys General React
Upon learning of the Trump Administration proposal, Attorneys General in 17 states reacted, citing the threat posed by the new rules to “the mental and physical security” of their states’ most vulnerable residents.
Of course, Covid-19 has changed the picture, at least for now. The Trump Administration is now pushing strong infection control measures in nursing homes to stop the spread. It may prove too little, too late.
Are You the Victim Of Nursing Home Neglect?
We and our nationwide network represent residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospices. We also accept cases from families of those residents as well as homebound patients who were neglected or abused by a homecare service. Our mission is simple, we protect our older and disabled clients.
To learn more, visit our nursing home abuse information page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone at 833.201.1555. Simply because you are in a nursing home doesn’t mean you must suffer poor care.