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⭒ New Developments

Can Long Term Care Facility Residents Go Home for the Holidays During the Pandemic?

In addition to the over 90,000 reported deaths due to COVID-19 in the nation’s nursing homes since March, the Associated Press is reporting findings that more than 40,000 additional residents died prematurely due to other causes. Those “excess deaths” were identified through an analysis conducted by Stephen Kaye, a professor at the Institute on Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco. The November 18 AP article – Not just COVID: Nursing home neglect deaths surge in shadows – describes a tandem wave of horrific deaths in nursing homes due to extreme neglect and isolation. The analysis found that for every two COVID-19 victims in nursing homes, there is another who died prematurely of other causes.

California officials have turned a blind eye toward this wave of deadly neglect by suspending regular inspections that evaluate the quality of care in nursing homes. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gave the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) authority to restore full inspections more than three months ago, yet it still hasn’t done so, opting instead to divert inspectors to narrowly focused infection control surveys that its own inspectors have harshly criticized for ignoring neglect. Alarmingly, CDPH’s actions are helping to cover up neglect rather than to detect and stop it.

Not surprisingly, the AP’s investigation points to understaffing as a primary cause of the neglect. Here too, the CDPH is aiding negligent nursing home operators and exposing residents to neglect by rubber-stamping hundreds of operators’ requests to waive California’s minimum staffing standards during the pandemic. CDPH has granted such waivers to over 300 skilled nursing facilities, including to some of the worst performing nursing homes in the state.