Connecticut nursing homes threatened by COVID order – again

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Administrators of Connecticut’s 209 nursing homes and long-term care facilities were stunned earlier this year when the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) told them they must begin accepting patients infected with COVID-19 to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

It was like deja vu again for those working in nursing homes during the early days of the pandemic, when COVID deaths in states like Connecticut, New York and New Jersey were heavily concentrated in care facilities for the elderly.

Despite being one of the most vaccinated groups, people over the age of 65 represent three-quarters of all deaths of COVID. A combination of close quarters and patients with compromised immune systems caused the virus to spread like wildfire through nursing homes.

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that any state considering “emergency health care” facilities, such as nursing homes, must ensure transferred COVID patients do not compromise the ability of these facilities to prevent the spread of the virus internally.

Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ignored science, forcing nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients early in the pandemic. But he canceled his warrant only six weeks later after seeing the deadly consequences. A study by the New York State Bar Association published last June showed that this six-week period alone caused “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000 deaths of nursing home residents. “.

Connecticut Governor Lamont (right) takes a page from former NY Governor Cuomo’s book urging nursing homes to accommodate discharged patients ‘regardless of COVID-19 status’.
Reuters; Getty Images

While neighboring Connecticut has never stopped allowing infected patients, most nursing homes have required two negative COVID tests at least 24 hours apart before they are willing to accept any new patients or a discharged from a hospital looking to free up capacity.

Everything changed with Connecticut DPH memo this year, urging nursing homes to accommodate patients discharged from hospital “regardless of their COVID-19 status”. After nursing home administrators refused, a spokesperson for Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont clarified that he was not requiring them to take COVID-positive patients, but that they should call DPH and explain why s they didn’t.

A medical director at a Connecticut nursing home lamented on social media that “if the hospital refers a COVID-positive person and we decline, we are immediately reported to DPH and have to justify the decision.” Like the bully on the playground saying – “Go ahead, I’ll challenge you twice” – but this time lives are at stake.

Tragically, the impact of Lamont’s policies was immediate. Data broadcast last week that nearly 100 (98) residents have died in Connecticut nursing homes in the four weeks since those facilities were encouraged to take on COVID-infected patients — nearly four times the number of people who died in the past four weeks preceding the order.

A man visits his mother through his apartment window at his retirement home in Windsor, Connecticut during the height of the pandemic on May 14, 2020.
A man visits his mother through his apartment window at his retirement home in Windsor, Connecticut during the height of the pandemic on May 14, 2020.
PA

Meanwhile, the number of nursing home residents infected with the virus has more than doubled over this period – from 965 to 2,378. In contrast, infection rates, hospitalizations and COVID-related deaths in the general Connecticut population declined over this same period as Omicron continued to subside.

Sensing the criticism this unwanted spike in cases could bring, the governor hastily issued another executive order, this time requiring anyone entering nursing homes to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test before being tested. allowed to enter – except of course for the hospital COVID-positive patients are arriving in nursing homes every day!

Lamont and his DPH have other choices available to them if they are willing to think creatively. They could use the $6 billion in federal COVID money sent to Connecticut to set up separate recovery centers to pick up COVID-positive patients — relieving hospitals while keeping those patients isolated and safe from transmission. of the virus to others.

Families of COVID patients who died in New York nursing homes loudly protested Cuomo's policies in 2020. Families in Connecticut should demand better, too.
Families of COVID patients who died in New York nursing homes loudly protested Cuomo’s policies in 2020. Families in Connecticut should demand better, too.
PA

They could offer short-term bonuses or temporary pay raises to skilled healthcare workers who are retired or furloughed to entice them back to work now and help us get through this spike. They might look to recruit healthcare workers from other parts of the country less affected by the current wave of COVID to come to Connecticut and help.

At a minimum, they could change the current bi-weekly report of care home infections and deaths to a daily report to get an early read and react before it’s too late.

One thing we’ve learned is that “one size doesn’t fit all” when it comes to COVID. While Connecticut and other northeastern states are rejoicing at the overall decline in Omicron rates, data shows that infections and deaths in Connecticut nursing homes are still a major concern. It is not too late to do something about it, if the heads of state have the courage to act now.

A former General Electric executive and chief financial officer of UBS Investment Bank, Bob Stefanowski was the 2018 Republican nominee for governor of Connecticut and is now a candidate for Connecticut’s gubernatorial election in 2022.

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