The nursing home sector has had well-documented challenges with infection control and adequate staffing over the years. The unfolding tragedy in American nursing homes, where patients are dying in clusters, is another consequence of short-staffing, poor training, and the coronavirus testing debacle. Health professionals unknowingly brought the virus into long-term care facilities, spreading it among the population least likely to withstand it. The shortages of protective gear for health workers exacerbated the situation because nursing homes were not prepared to maintain supplies of equipment like masks and gowns. This combination of lack of preparedness, inadequate testing capacity and misunderstanding of how the virus could spread seeded death in scores of nursing homes across the country, where patients are not only dying quickly, but often without family and loved ones at their side. Nationally, at least 500 long-term care facilities had at least one resident infected. That’s likely an undercount. The CDC hasn’t started formally tracking the numbers of homes, nor the number of people infected in them.
“We have said, and we repeat again, that our providers do not have sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment and other resources to adequately protect staff and to ensure the well-being of residents,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of aging services, said in a statement.