Mass. nursing homes need to know that they will be held accountable
Re “Tougher oversight key to protecting state’s elderly” (Editorial, July 5): Nationwide, more than 50,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are dead from COVID-19, and the death toll continues to mount. For four months, elected officials have known that nursing homes are a hotbed for the virus, and even before the pandemic, most of the nation’s nursing homes struggled to follow basic infection control procedures.
In Massachusetts, AARP urged the Legislature to pass An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment, which Governor Baker signed into law. We believe that transparency is critical for public health, and we appreciate the efforts state elected officials made by passing bills to address shortfalls in the current reporting system.
But this doesn’t go far enough. Yes, caregivers and family members need and deserve to have information on COVID-19 cases and deaths for their own health decisions and as they consider next steps for their loved ones. However, long-term care providers must remain responsible for any negligent actions that fail to protect the health — and lives — of residents and staff.
Litigation is an option of last resort, and no family member who has lost a loved one due to neglect or abuse pursues this course lightly. But Massachusetts should not strip away the rights and protections of residents. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities should know that they will continue to be held responsible for providing the level of quality care that is required of them, and for which they are being compensated.
Now is not the time to let nursing homes off the hook.
It took a pandemic to alert us to the substandard care that goes on
I was heartened to see the editorial about the need for better oversight of the state’s nursing homes. Unfortunately, it took a public health disaster to wake up the country to the substandard care that besets many of these facilities.
I have worked with nursing home elders for more than 20 years as a mental health consultant. I have witnessed a progressive decline in conditions that predated and, most likely, precipitated the rapid spread and high fatality rate of COVID-19 in this population. Despite annual health department surveys, nothing seems to get better.
I couldn’t agree more with the need to get back to basics. One problem I have seen in homes I covered is the lack of education, training, and support for front-line staff. Facilities used to designate a staff developer to regularly provide in-service teaching on subjects such as infection control. In an effort to save money, such positions were eliminated and assigned to a staff person who is already doing multiple jobs.
Please continue to focus on the plight of our nursing homes — your attention is a great public service.
Workers need to be focus of protection, prevention too
In last Sunday’s editorial on oversight of nursing homes, you cited a report by the Pioneer Institute that stated that by the time of a mid-March restriction on visitors, “it was too late as the virus had already infiltrated most [nursing] homes through staff or visitors, many of whom were likely asymptomatic.”
Yet in your list of suggestions for preventing high percentages of cases and deaths in nursing facilities if and when further waves occur, you neglect to suggest any measures that need to be taken regarding those underserved people who work in these facilities.