I had the opportunity to join WFAE’s Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins this morning, 7-7-20, along with a newspaper reporter and a Duke health policy expert. The topic was nursing homes and Covid. Some of the questions and discussion were a bit uncomfortable, but that is the complicated world we live in. (Here’s the link.)
My goal was to represent LSC and the long term care profession, and to get some specific points across.
It was important for the public to understand that we started working on Covid response the last week in February 2020, long before the pandemic reached crisis level. That week, LSC put a Covid Response Team in place, and NCHCFA and AHCA started almost daily calls and webinars to educate and guide us members. The state of NC, CDC, and local health departments have been excellent collaborative partners during this ever-changing crisis.
Points that I really wanted to make, and was able to:
1. Nursing homes are the canary in the coal mine. If Covid is prevalent in the community, it will be prevalent in that community’s long term care communities.
2. Long term care has been ignored for too long to the detriment of all, and the chickens came home to roost with Covid.
3. Covid hit during the worst labor shortage in history.
4. LTC was fighting the worst labor shortage in history, and Medicaid was not paying enough to allow LTC providers to pay a living wage to deserving care givers.
5. Even the NC Legislature understood the labor shortage, passing legislation to pay a minimum of $15/hr. for state employees. But the state Medicaid rate will only support $11-12/hr. That means LTC providers could not even compete against the state for CNAs, much less compete with McDonalds, etc.
6. Dr. David Grabowski from Harvard testified before Congress in the last two weeks. He said nursing homes were vulnerable because of their location, not because of their quality. He also said poor staffing in LTC (labor shortage) was the gasoline to Covid-19’s match. Well said!
The group discussed the need for more testing and PPE and to wear masks, all of which I heartily endorsed.
The newspaper reporter had done some research on disaster plans for nursing homes and infection control needs in nursing homes. I noted that every nursing home is required to have an infection control specialist, and a disaster plan, but no one foresaw the fast-moving and ever-changing global pandemic.
We ran out of time before I could make a number of other important points. I private messaged the facilitator asking if I could share a big shout out for all direct care hero staff across NC and to let listeners know how they can help their local LTC community. I print this here as another thank you to our hero teammates in LSC and across the state!
Every NC citizen can support their local LTC facility. Call your nearest neighborhood LTC community to: coordinate a car parade around the parking lot, offer to window visit with a resident whether you know them or not, offer to video visit with a resident whether you know them or not, have families or children to write letters and cards to residents.