The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes, assisted living communities and other long term care facilities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year, today called on state and federal government agencies to provide expanded and priority testing for nursing homes and assisted living communities and emergency funding to help the profession respond to the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in long term care facilities across the country.
Despite recent data and reports showing the outsized impact of the novel coronavirus on long term care residents, particularly those with underlying health conditions, industry leaders say nursing homes and assisted living communities have not been a priority for supplies, testing or resources.
AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said the profession is doing everything it can with current resources, but it’s not enough to stop the spread of this virus within long term care facilities.
“Our dedicated and heroic caregivers are working around the clock to keep our residents safe. But they need help,” stated Parkinson “Our profession has been sounding the alarm for weeks and weeks, but we have largely been forgotten by the public health sector. If we are not made a top priority, this situation will get worse with the most vulnerable in our society being lost.”
Parkinson stated that expanding testing remains a top priority as many long term care providers who have been able to expand testing are finding a high number of people who are positive, but asymptomatic. He said many residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country could be a carrier of the virus without symptoms, but contagious and at risk.
“Without access to more testing, nursing homes and assisted living communities are at a severe disadvantage in protecting our residents,” stated Parkinson. “Long term care facilities, especially ones with COVID-19 cases, need to be able to alert all residents and staff due to the fact that many individuals are not exhibiting symptoms.”
To help fund expanded testing and additional staffing needed to respond to the COVID-19 virus, Parkinson also called on the federal government to provide an emergency response fund for long term care facilities, much like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did for hospitals.
“Without adequate funding and resources, long term care facilities will not be able to overcome this unprecedented health crisis and protect our residents and caregivers,” stated Parkinson. “We need the financial resources to support expanded testing and securing vital personal protective equipment (PPE).”
The lack of PPE has also put caregivers at a serious disadvantage in protecting themselves as they care for the vulnerable population who reside in our facilities. Parkinson did applaud the announcement this week by Vice President Mike Pence that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be expediting the direct shipment of PPE supplies to more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country.
“We really appreciate Vice President Pence and FEMA for stepping up to deliver vital PPE supplies to protect our staff and residents,” stated Parkinson. “We need this protective equipment right away and in the coming weeks and months.”
Parkinson said the industry will continue to work with local, state and federal health officials to ensure all possible actions are taken to keep residents and caregivers safe.
“The long term care profession has been forgotten during the early phase of the country’s response to the pandemic, but it is not too late to turn this difficult situation around,” said Parkinson. “What we need now is to rally around nursing homes and assisted living communities the same way the public health sector has around hospitals. That means expanded testing, more PPE and urgently needed funding from the federal government for both residents and caregivers.”
For more information on the profession’s response, please visit www.ahcancal.org/coronavirus.