A Connecticut media outlet’s investigation of inspection reports for nursing homes hit by large numbers of coronavirus cases reveals the facilities were likely to have prior federal infection control violations and other serious problems months before COVID-19 hit the state.
CT Mirror reported Monday results of its analysis of inspection reports and evaluations for nursing homes with a significant number of residents infected with COVID-19 showed the facilities were more likely to have had prior serious infection control violations, staffing level problems, and poor inspection grades than those with no cases of coronavirus.
According to the report:
Among the facilities where at least 10% of the residents have COVID-19, just over half recorded “below or much below average” ratings compared to one-third of the homes without the virus.
And while it is not universally true, the homes fined or cited for violations are the ones now most likely to be hardest hit by COVID-19.
Currently, 58 percent of all coronavirus-related deaths in Connecticut have occurred in nursing homes. About 1,250 nursing home residents are believed to have already died in the state due to the COVID-19 infection.
CT Mirror’s data reflected overall ratings from federal inspections of nursing homes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The analysis showed 34 percent of all Connecticut nursing homes had below average inspection ratings, compared to 40 percent of facilities in which 10 percent of residents have been infected with COVID-19. In nursing homes in which none of the residents have the infection, 26 percent scored below average prior to the pandemic.
In Waterbury, for example, 33 elderly or disabled at Abbott Terrace Health Center became ill with a “respiratory outbreak” last summer – months before a pandemic was declared.
“Within two weeks, one out of every six residents had contracted the illness,” CT Mirror reported.
In July, federal inspectors found serious violations at Abbott Terrace, including failure by staff to wash hands or switch gloves between work with residents or after changing soiled bedding.
Even after the last inspection, staff at the facility were never trained in how to control the spread of infection, said the report.
Currently, Abbott Terrace has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in the state, with the number of residents with the infection having spiked from 69 to 120 in just two weeks.
CT Mirror reported in April nursing home workers and their union leaders said the state has not provided them with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) or adequate funding.
The report noted that unannounced inspection visits by the state Department of Public Health, the Connecticut National Guard, and CDC officials are occurring.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D) has reportedly said the staffing problems at the facilities are isolated and most of them now have sufficient PPE.
However, the report noted spokespersons for Lamont and the state’s public health department did not appear to know the status of the inspection reports or their conclusions.
“The governor makes orders all the time,” the governor’s spokesman, Max Reiss, reportedly responded. “Is he supposed to sit behind his desk and go through 50 reports? No. There’s no governor doing that.”
Nursing homes and the policies governing them are coming under more pronounced scrutiny as the elderly are more vulnerable to becoming infected with the COVID-19 respiratory illness.
In New York last week, the New York Post reported state officials allowed nursing home staff known to be infected with the coronavirus to remain at work with residents in a facility in rural Steuben County.
On March 25, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued a directive ordering nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients.
“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the directive stated. “NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
While Cuomo has since said nursing homes may tell state Department of Public Health officials they cannot accept COVID-19 patients or transfer them to other facilities, some reported the state did not respond to their concerns.