I am sick and tired of hearing from the nursing home industry that the covid spread and deaths were unavoidable. This is simply not true. It is an excuse that the industry is using to avoid accountability. How do I know? Because many nursing homes were able to avoid all covid cases.
The Buffalo News reported on one such facility. Slate Valley Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing was one of at least 16 nursing homes in hard hit New York with no cases, according to federal and state statistics. Not a single one of its approximately 80 residents and more than 100 workers had tested positive for the virus. It can be done.
Low wages, unsafe staffing and poor infection control contribute to the spread of Covid-19. There are long-standing and well-known problems in the industry. A Government Accountability Office report said four of five nursing homes violated infection prevention and control safety rules from 2013 and 2017. Roughly half had persistent problems over multiple years.
“It was education, education, education and the staff respected that education. The staff wanted to learn and they wanted to do it right,” said Tamme Taran. She is the facility’s director of nursing who doubled as its onsite infection control specialist.
Staff wore masks, kept social distance, and avoided crowds while not working. Janice Doughman is the nursing home’s administrator.
“We took it seriously, but I think everybody was trying to do that. I don’t think we are unique in that,” Doughman said.
Experts also identified some factors that may help nursing homes in general. They include:
- Low community spread, which lessens the odds that workers or visitors will bring the virus to senior living campuses.
- A stable, well-informed staff working regularly with the same patients.
- Nursing home designs that split residents and workers into subgroups and limit interactions with others on-site.
The nursing home industry needs a wake-up call. Unfortunately, Covid-19 was that call. Let’s see how they respond.