Long before COVID-19 reached eldercare facilities and began sickening residents and staff members, state officials were aware that most Californian nursing homes had severe problems of all kinds. According to Nursing Home Compare, just in one facility, Californian inspectors identified 85 infringements last year, including not providing dental care to a resident and letting pressure sores to advance in another one.
But it’s also undeniably true that the pandemic worsened the situation; last week in Kern County, 112 elderly residents and 52 health workers tested positive for coronavirus in a facility of 184 beds. The center’s website informed that 18 of these people died, accounting for more than a third of all covid-related casualties in the county.
When the first COVID-19 outbreak occurred in California, health officials demanded nursing homes to ban outsiders from entering the facilities as a security measure to lower the risk of infection. As a result, residents didn’t see their families for months, and many died alone. All while the health department sent state inspectors from facility to facility without testing them first.
After they noted the flaw in their inspection system, the California Department of Health released a new way in how state inspectors will examine nursing facilities from now on. In the new system, inspectors will take on a “consultant” role in which they will “adopt” and frequently visit many nursing homes. Critics argued that the new plan doesn’t change anything since the testing system remains unsafe for all the persons involved.
David Grabowski, a healthcare policy professor at Harvard Medical School, told the LA Times that “It makes no sense that we’ve locked these facilities down since March, keeping families out, only to realize inspectors have been moving from facility to facility without being tested”. And added that the lack of reliable, systematic testing for supervisors is “crazy, and really alarming”.
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