The Center for Medicare Advocacy released a new report – Geography Is Not Destiny: Protecting Nursing Home Residents from the Next Pandemic – which explores facilities’ responses to the coronavirus crisis and examines how residents’ deaths were not “inevitable”, as some have claimed. The report contends that COVID-19 exploited and exacerbated long-standing issues, such as staffing, infection control, and management problems, that existed for decades in the long-term care industry.
As our nation’s nursing homes continue to reel from the unprecedented toll that COVID-19 has taken, questions remain about how many deaths could have been avoided, and – crucially – what can be done to save lives moving forward to prevent a similar catastrophe in the future. Nationwide, 36% of COVID-related deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities (and in some states that figure jumps to over 60%). These statistics are even more shocking considering that less than 1% of the nation’s population live in these facilities.
“The wrath of COVID-19 in our nursing homes was felt, in large part, because we as a nation have not prioritized fixing these issues,” states Cinnamon St. John, the report’s author – who is also the Center’s Health and Aging Policy Fellow and Associate Director of NYU Rory Meyers’ Hartford Institute of Geriatric Nursing. “COVID-19 will very likely not be the last pandemic we experience in our lifetimes. If we don’t address these issues now, will see these mass casualties again. The good news is that we know more now. The lessons are clear. But we must act. The currency is lives – lives lost, or lives saved,” she added
· Analyzes and challenges the assertion that “Geography is Destiny” as the prevailing theory of nursing home transmission (concluding “a facility’s location does not equate to a facility’s fate”)
· Identifies lessons learned for nursing homes
· Provides specific policy recommendations for change
The report also examines both the challenges and successes of nursing home administrators who have been combatting COVID-19 on a daily basis. “You can either panic during the pandemic or you can be prepared during the pandemic. It’s better to be prepared,” says Reverend Derrick DeWitt, Director and CFO of the Maryland Baptist Aged Home. His nursing home, with about a 90% Medicaid resident population, has remarkably remained COVID-free to this day.