PITTSBURGH — A new report sheds light on the dire situation in assisted living facilities when it comes to supplies and caring for some of the most vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 70% of people who died from the coronavirus in Pennsylvania have been residents in those facilities.
“We want to make sure the nursing homes have the supplies that they need,” said Bill Johnston-Walsh, Pennsylvania director of AARP. “We want to make sure nursing homes have the testing they need.”
Johnston-Walsh said there’s a lack of oversight in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. He said that for months, elected officials have known that nursing homes are a hotbed for the coronavirus, but even the most basic precautions to prevent loss of life are still not in place.
The National Center for Assisted Living said an early-June survey of 375 member facilities showed 53% had less than a two-week supply of N-95 masks, 36% had less than a two-week supply of surgical masks, 34% are less than two weeks away from running out of face shields, and 52% had less than a two-week supply of gowns.
The report found that 70% of facilities asked for help from stated and local health agencies, and many are still forced to reuse PPE (personal protective equipment) or rely on homemade supplies.
“States and nursing home operators have struggled with pandemic related supply chain dynamics,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, of Long-Term Care Medicine. “The federal government, whose prompt response was so desperately needed, failed to surmount the challenge and make PPE a priority for nursing homes.”
Channel 11 reached out to some local assisted living centers and we’re still waiting to hear back on their supply levels.
The National Center for Assisted Living has requested $5 billion in emergency funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to help pay for supplies as well as expanded testing and additional staffing.
Some nursing homes in Pennsylvania only test patients once for the coronavirus and others aren’t testing at all, according to Johnston-Walsh.
He said the AARP has been in contact with Gov. Tom Wolf and hopes to have more consistent testing across the board soon. The timing for that depends on staffing, funding and accessibility to testing kits.
Johnston-Walsh said when it comes to patients’ loved ones, in many cases, family members of current patients or the deceased struggled to get information about what was happening in those facilities.
“We are hearing over and over again that people are not hearing from facilities,”Johnston-Walsh said. “We’re hearing that, you know, when they used to be able to walk up to the window and wave to a family member and have that conversation, now it’s, you get in virtually or you don’t see them for months on end.”
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