Are Nursing Homes Still Short on the Supplies Needed to Fight Coronavirus?
COVID-19 cases are expected to continue climbing across the U.S. as more than 25,000 nursing home residents and 400 staff have died since the pandemic began. In the months to come, an increase in supplies are expected to be needed by health care workers, patients, and nursing home residents for their protection. But a troublesome report by Kaiser Health News (KHN) published in June 2020 shows that nearly 20% of the nation’s nursing homes still aren’t receiving the personal protection equipment (PPE) they need.
- An estimated 3,213 out of more than 15,000 facilities had less than a week’s supply of masks, gowns, gloves, eye protectors, or hand sanitizer.
- Nursing home workers who have received PPE and infectious disease supplies by nursing home owners say products provided are not the right level of protection.
- Federal records published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show workers at 711 nursing homes reported having run out of N95 masks, and 1,963 said they had less than a week’s supply.
While we are not disputing that COVID-19 has created tremendous supply chain challenges, nursing home owners should be working to obtain PPE from several sources to protect staff and residents from different infectious diseases. Owners must prepare as much as possible for contingency and crisis management of resources to ensure the recommended PPE to be available when needed most, keep staff levels high, and provide adequate training on PPE use, including proper donning and doffing procedures.
How is PPE Used by Staff to Prevent a COVID-19 Outbreak?
Health care professionals should only enter a resident’s room to care for a patient with a confirmed or possible COVID-19 infection and wearing the appropriate PPE. Below is one example of how nursing home staff should be using PPE to avoid a facility outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Identify and gather the proper PPE to don. Ensure choice of gown size is correct (based on training).
- Perform hand hygiene using hand sanitizer.
- Put on isolation gown. Tie all of the ties on the gown. Assistance may be needed by other healthcare personnel.
- Put on NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator or higher (use a facemask if a respirator is not available). If the respirator has a nosepiece, it should be fitted to the nose with both hands, not bent or tented. Do not pinch the nosepiece with one hand. Respirator/facemask should be extended under chin. Both your mouth and nose should be protected. Do not wear respirator/facemask under your chin or store in scrubs pocket between patients.
- Respirator: Respirator straps should be placed on crown of head (top strap) and base of neck (bottom strap). Perform a user seal check each time you put on the respirator.
- Facemask: Mask ties should be secured on crown of head (top tie) and base of neck (bottom tie). If mask has loops, hook them appropriately around your ears.
- Put on face shield or goggles. When wearing an N95 respirator or half facepiece elastomeric respirator, select the proper eye protection to ensure that the respirator does not interfere with the correct positioning of the eye protection, and the eye protection does not affect the fit or seal of the respirator. Face shields provide full face coverage. Goggles also provide excellent protection for eyes, but fogging is common.
- Put on gloves. Gloves should cover the cuff (wrist) of gown.
- Healthcare personnel may now enter patient room.
Similar safety precautions should be made with the removal of PPE and more than one method may be acceptable. Hand hygiene is critical before and after removing PPE, especially if a facility is practicing safe reuse. Training and practice using these procedures are also necessary to lessen the risk of an outbreak.
Personal Protection Supply Complaints Are Being Dismissed
Public complaint logs show thousands of desperate calls from nursing home workers who need better protective gear. Since March, more than 4,100 COVID-related complaints have been made to federal and state offices designed to protect workers from harm on the job. KHN’s investigation found that at least 35 health care workers died after these workplace safety complaints were reviewed. KHN’s report also revealed as of June 21st, “Government agencies had quietly closed almost all of those complaints, and none of them led to a citation or a fine.”
Complaints cannot be treated with such quick closure and without an investigation. These dismissals underscore what we have already known for decades in practicing nursing home abuse and neglect law and speaking up for our most vulnerable citizens, including nursing home residents and their family members, and nursing home employees with whistleblower complaints of unsafe working environments. The sad truth is, some nursing homes simply aren’t equipped or prepared to handle infectious diseases and continue to operate with little oversight despite their known deficiencies.
If you wish to file a complaint about an Illinois nursing home, you can call the state’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-252-4343. Common reasons for filing a complaint would be abuse, neglect, poor care, not enough staff, unsafe or unsanitary conditions, dietary problems, or mistreatment. You can also request a free consultation with a nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer at Levin & Perconti to learn more about your legal options.
Chicago Attorneys Leading the Fight Against Nursing Home Negligence
At Levin & Perconti, we have the experience and resources to investigate claims and are currently standing up to violators who choose not to protect residents and staff from harm caused by infectious diseases. We want to know if there are unsafe working environments, such as understaffed departments and those with a lack of personal protection equipment. If you are considering a legal case against an Illinois nursing home related to COVID-19 or want to share your story to help others, please contact us for a free consultation at 877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872. All calls and discussions with our attorneys are confidential.
Also read: Alden of Waterford: COVID-19 Summary