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U.S. Government Expands Nursing Home Resident Protections

A New Federal Safety Commission Is Among the Post-Pandemic Changes to Protect Nursing Homes from Future Outbreaks

Yesterday, President Trump announced a new task force to analyze nursing home response to the COVID-19 pandemic and suggest best practices for future threats. His decision comes in response to a stunning number of infections and deaths among residents in these facilities. We are glad to see life-saving moves such as this being made at the highest levels of government.

Since the initial cluster of coronavirus infections began in a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, healthcare officials have been on alert for similar situations nationwide. However, reporting gaps have made it difficult to learn the full impact of the novel coronavirus among these institutions. A release from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates COVID-19 has been responsible for more than 10,000 fatalities among nursing home residents and staff. The 36 states reporting numbers from these facilities identified over 50,000 infections in 4,000 care homes as of April 23. COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on nursing homes. Should we face a similar pandemic in the future, it’s urgent we increase protection for our most vulnerable citizens.

The Role of the Commission

The Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes will have its first meeting in late May. It will include various stakeholders such as doctors, resident advocates, and industry leaders to ensure a balanced evaluation. The group has three objectives:

  1. Increase protective measures to shield nursing home residents from COVID-19
  2. Create new oversight measures and empower inspectors to put COVID-19 containment procedures in place
  3. Incentivize greater compliance with nursing home infection control/sanitation requirements.

These efforts will be data-driven, relying on nursing homes’ records to evaluate current prevention and mitigation efforts. The commission may also determine ways in which data-sharing can help nursing homes and governments craft a better response during outbreaks of infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us just how essential preparation is when it comes to limiting the impact of new diseases.

Other Steps to Protect Nursing Home Patients

The government will also be taking additional steps to provide aid to nursing homes and their staff in the upcoming weeks. Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), over 15,000 nursing homes will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) including eye protection, gloves, masks, and gowns.

Along with the support to on-the-ground care staff, the government will be increasing its oversight. Nursing homes will soon be required to collect and report data on COVID-19 infections so the government and other analysts can be assured they understand the full scope of the problem. As this pandemic has shown, every missing piece of information makes it much harder for analysts to spot crucial issues.

In addition to the reporting, nursing homes can also expect more frequent inspection. Official assessments of nursing home conditions have all but ended as a safety measure. However, patient advocates and family members of residents worry this has allowed care standards inside these facilities to deteriorate during a time when they should be stricter than ever. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed by the government has earmarked $81 million for state inspection efforts. Our team will be watching to see that this funding is put to work protecting the elderly.

Nursing Home Advocates Have No Time to Rest

Economic and other industry pressures are constantly threatening the well-being of those entrusted to nursing homes across the country. We have seen the tragic results caused by facilities falling out of compliance with federal and local regulations. We greatly appreciate the government’s action to improve safety and quality of life for those in residential care. Whether due to coronavirus or other threats to nursing home residents, our team vows to keep fighting for these vulnerable members of our society.

Questions about a nursing home abuse case? Call Ashcraft & Gerel at (800) 674-9725 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We are currently offering no-contact services via email, phone, and videoconferencing.

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