Across America, nursing homes are failing to protect their residents from the coronavirus because of a lack of preparation and PPE. As nursing homes remain the pandemic’s epicenter, the federal government is failing to ensure these facilities have all the personal protective equipment, or PPE, needed to prevent the spread of the virus, according to interviews with administrators and federal data.Facilities are still waiting for boxes of masks, eyewear and gowns promised by the federal government. But all too often the packages deliver only disappointment — if they arrive at all.
Some contain flimsy surgical masks or cloth face coverings that are explicitly not intended for medical use. Others are missing items or have far less than the protective equipment the government promised to send. Instead of proper medical gowns, many packages hold large blue plastic ponchos.
“It’s like putting a trash bag on,” said Pamela Black, the administrator of Enterprise Estates Nursing Center in Enterprise, Kan. “There’s no real place for your hands to come out.”
Despite President Trump’s pledge on April 30 to “deploy every resource and power that we have” to protect older Americans, the situation keeps getting worse. Widespread equipment shortages continue in some places as the virus rages lethally through nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
“The federal government’s failure to nationalize the supply chain and take control of it contributed to the deaths in nursing homes,” said Scott LaRue, president and CEO of ArchCare, the health care system of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which operates five nursing homes.
“The federal government has got to step up,” said Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “We’re now — what? — three months into this pandemic, and these facilities still don’t have enough PPE to protect themselves and their residents?”