Government records into nursing homes reveal how supply shortages, lapses in care, short-staffing, a lack of transparency and inadequate training related to infection control precautions are fueling the spread of Covid-19 within America’s nursing homes. Facilities have been struggling for years. Now already burnt-out and overwhelmed workers are trying to identify, isolate and treat patients with the disease on top of their already demanding jobs. Measures aimed at protecting residents from the spread of the disease, meanwhile, have left them even more vulnerable and closed off from the public. As a result, elder advocates, health care experts, and government watchdogs say it is becoming easier for abuse and neglect to go unchecked and to cove-up incidents of criminal behavior. State long-term care ombudsmen, who are tasked with protecting residents, told CNN there are not enough eyes on these facilities at a time when oversight is needed the most.
Many of the country’s nursing homes were already understaffed and frequently cited for lax infection control before coronavirus began to spread. Now staff are risking their own health and often lacking access to the supplies and testing they need as they care for a population at high risk of dying from the disease. Advocates for long-term care residents said there is a short-term financial incentive to downplay infections since a publicized outbreak could result in families removing their loved ones and hurt future business. An outbreak could also open the doors for inspectors to cite a facility for numerous other violations such as understaffing.