News & Politics

Coronavirus Is Taking a Heavy Toll at Nursing Homes Across America

Kirkland Fire and Rescue ambulance workers walk back to a vehicle after a patient was loaded into an ambulance, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. The nursing home is at the center of the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

According to a study by the New York Times, at least 3,800 seniors living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died of the coronavirus and another 21,000 have been infected. There were 43 deaths at a Seattle nursing home, Life Care Center, in the last month, and yesterday, the 45th resident died of the virus at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

What those two facilities have in common is that they are publicly funded. In fact, most of those 3,800 deaths chronicled by the New York Times were in homes where Medicaid was paying most residents’ bills.

Post-Gazette:

“A publicly funded nursing home is a virus’s dream,” said Dr. Jim Wright, Canterbury’s medical director. “It is the best place for a virus to be. People are close together. Their immune systems are compromised. It is just a tinderbox for that match.”

Studies have shown nursing homes heavily dependent on Medicaid for revenue have fewer nurses and other staff per patient than average and lower quality of care overall. And some of the biggest outbreaks so far have been at homes tied closely to the government payment program, including ones in Wayne, W.Va., and the Crown Heights section of New York City’s Brooklyn borough.

We’ve heard nightmare stories of conditions at some public nursing homes. Canterbury may one of the worst.

Even in normal times, Canterbury merited just one out of five stars in Medicare’s rating system, with inspection records showing the facility had such poor staffing levels that it impacted patient care.

One nurse told an inspector last year “residents would stay in bed because it is almost impossible for two people to assist 62 or 63 residents.” Previous inspections also found infection-control problems and failure to report an attempted rape of a patient.

One patient had a sore on her leg that went unnoticed for so long that by the time they began to treat it, her leg had to be amputated. That kind of care is not uncommon and is one of the big reasons the virus has taken such a heavy toll on nursing homes.

Governors are trying. They’ve even called out the National Guard to help.

Since then, several governors have used their emergency power to do the same for their homes. The National Guard was called in to evacuate a home in Tennessee, take over another one in Massachusetts and run tests at a third in Wisconsin. And special “strike teams” have been tapped to run tests and ferry supplies to homes in Ohio, Indiana and Maryland.

“Where is the state in some of this? Why wasn’t more done on a state level as well to come in and take over the situation?” Ms. Thompson asked, noting that at one point the victims from Canterbury accounted for about a third of the state’s dead. “There’s lots of blame to go around.”

The media is too busy trashing Trump to pay much attention to states run by Democratic governors.

It won’t matter to the anti-Trump hysterics, but the insidious nature of this bug means that it can infect hundreds of people before anyone knows it’s there. That’s what’s happened in nursing homes across the country and thousands are dying because of it.

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