Medical society condemns states that forced nursing homes to take COVID-19 patients

To the Editor:

New York, New Jersey and California instructed nursing homes to take COVID-19 patients. New York issued the directive on March 25. It read in part, “No resident (patient) shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH (nursing home) solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

AMDA, The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, issued a statement condemning state directives that instructed nursing homes to accept infected patients:

Many residents succumb to this virus because of their age and medical condition.

Nursing home staff realize it only takes one staff member, who doesn’t know they are infected, to start the spread of the virus. There is no realistic way to protect the residents from the staff, even though measures are put in place to try to keep everyone safe. The reason is there is no way to determine if a staff member has the virus, as symptoms are often not present. Even if testing was available, you would have to test staff members every time they came to work. To date that is not realistic, maybe in the future. Don’t forget staff would have to come to work earlier and wait for the results of the test, before entering the facility. The only other way is to sequester the staff at the nursing home indefinitely.

The reason the federal government has prohibited visitors to nursing homes is to protect the residents from the virus. Once the virus enters the nursing home, it spreads through the facility, just like the flu, despite the staff doing everything correctly.

It is difficult to comprehend nursing homes were directed by NY, NJ and CA to take COVID-19 patients. It is ironic measures put in place by the federal government, couldn’t protect the residents from state directives. In New York, even Matilda’s law didn’t help them.

This situation is tragic. Despite appropriate care, the virus will spread through a nursing home relentlessly. Nursing home staff should be honored for their dedication, like other healthcare workers; instead, they may face unjust civil or criminal prosecution. I wonder if nursing homes and their staff can survive that pandemic, let alone COVID-19.



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