Trump Rewards Donors
The Intercept reported a corrupt quid pro quo relationship between Trump and a campaign donor. Trump rewarded the campaign donor with millions of tax payer dollars in Covid Relief. The donor is a nursing home operator with a history of abuse and neglect before, during, and after the pandemic. The neglect includes poor infection prevention and control, lack of PPE, and unsafe staffing levels.
The nursing home magnate is Eliezer Scheiner. He attended a fundraiser with Trump. Scheiner donated $750,000 to the top super PAC supporting Trump’s reelection campaign, America First Action. The New York Times reported that the fundraiser brought in over $3 million from the nursing home industry. The industry benefits from lack of enforcement of safety standards under the Trump administration. The average fine has gone down by 31 percent. Before Covid, Trump even proposed to eliminate rules that enhanced infection control in nursing homes.
Neglect, during the Covid-19 outbreak, at one of Scheiner’s facilities killed 18 residents and one caregiver. Scheiner or his company TL Management have fared poorly during the Covid-19 pandemic. In all, Scheiner’s facilities in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., have caused over 145 coronavirus deaths.
Then, the Trump administration announced a $4.9 billion bailout to nursing homes. Consumer advocates and experts suggested funds be used to increase staffing, provide PPE, and for testing. However, this money came with no strings attached. In early May, Scheiner donated the legal maximum to Trump’s reelection campaign. He also donated $50,000 to the Trump Victory Fund as well.
Scheiner is wealthy from the nursing home business. In fact, he swore that his personal net worth was “well in excess” of $37.5 million. At the same time, TL Management paid lobbyists to get bailout money. Trump provided Scheiner-affiliated nursing homes over $27 million in funds since the Covid-19 crisis began.
Prior to Covid-19, infection prevention and control was a significant problem for the nursing home industry. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion estimates that 380,000 residents die annually from infections. A 2012 study from the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect estimated that 24.3 percent of nursing home residents have experienced abuse by staff.
Many experts blame low staffing levels for coronavirus deaths in nursing homes nationwide. Charlene Harrington, a professor of nursing at UC San Francisco, explains that registered nurse staffing is critical to infection control. “If you don’t have RNs, you can’t focus on infection control,” said Harrington. “RNs are trained in infection control as opposed to CNAs [certified nursing assistants] and LPNs [licensed practical nurses]. The RNs are the ones who can assess the residents and create the infection control plans.”
Harrington’s published research proves that poor staffing at nursing homes is correlated with higher Covid-19 cases. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center have similar findings.
“And that’s how [nursing homes] make all their money — keep RN staffing really low,” said Harrington, explaining that CMS grades on a curve when rating nursing homes. “Cutting back on RNs is a bad idea but that’s standard practice for most of these chains. Since labor costs are their biggest line item, they try to cut corners on labor.”
“Nursing homes get a lot of money,” said Harrington. “I think they really like Trump, because since he’s been in office, he’s really made major efforts to deregulate nursing homes. Federal money is clearly for testing, staffing, and PPE, but deregulation means they don’t actually have to spend their money on that,” said Harrington.