Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living (NYSHFA/NYSCAL), issued the following statement in response to rising number of COVID-19 outbreaks and fatalities in New York’s nursing homes and assisted living communities.
“We are deeply concerned about the high mortality rate and how widespread COVID-19 has become in long-term care facilities. The figures confirm what we have been exclaiming throughout this pandemic – nursing homes and assisted living providers care for the most vulnerable in our communities, and as such, must be a top priority for the allocation of staff, personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing.
“Nursing homes and assisted living providers throughout New York have been informing designated family members of positive COVID-19 tests and the presence of COVID-19 in buildings throughout this pandemic. Moreover, providers have continually submitted COVID-19 information to state and local health departments.
“While the focus has often been on hospitals, the residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are truly on the front lines of the battle against this virus.
“Outbreaks are not the result of inattentiveness or a shortcoming in our facilities. The very nature of long-term care is a high touch environment where social distancing is not an option. Staff are helping residents with bathing, dressing, eating and other personal daily needs.
“Early on it was clear that the concerns of long-term care providers were not fully recognized when the Department of Health issued an advisory on March 25 that prevented providers from denying admission to a nursing home of a hospital patient that had a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19 if that patient was medically stable.
“Given the highly contagious nature of this virus, requiring medically stable COVID-19 positive or suspected patients be admitted from hospitals to nursing homes created considerable concerns and appeared to demonstrate a lack of appreciation of the incredible susceptibility of our residents to this virus.
“In light of this data, it is absolutely critical that the state ensures that long-term care providers, residents and staff be designated as a top priority with staffing, PPE and testing in order to safeguard our most vulnerable citizens and the men and women who provide essential care.”