The ongoing story of the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a study in fits and starts: some pieces seem to go well while others are plagued with disorganization and failed promises. As one example, our reaction here at AgingOptions to this recent expose from Kaiser Health News was one of anger and frustration as we read about the failure of government agencies to provide critically-needed personal protective equipment to nursing homes nationwide, despite promises that help was on the way.
PPE Shortage Persists Even Though Nursing Homes Are “The Pandemic’s Epicenter”
“As nursing homes remain the pandemic’s epicenter, the federal government is failing to ensure they have all the personal protective equipment, or PPE, needed to prevent the spread of the virus,” Kaiser correspondent Jordan Rau reported in a story that broke earlier this week. “Around the country, nursing homes trying to protect their residents from the coronavirus eagerly await boxes of masks, eyewear and gowns promised by the federal government. But all too often the packages deliver disappointment — if they arrive at all.”
According to the Kaiser report, some of the shipments sent to nursing homes “contain flimsy surgical masks or cloth face coverings that are explicitly not intended for medical use.” Others arrive with missing items or quantities that fall far short of the one-week supply of protective equipment promised by government agencies. One example cited by Kaiser would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. “Instead of proper medical gowns, many packages hold large blue plastic ponchos,” the report states. One Kansas nursing center administrator complained, “It’s like putting a trash bag on. There’s no real place for your hands to come out.”Bottom of Form
Dangerous PPE Shortages Plague At Least One-Fifth of U.S. Nursing Homes
As recently as late May, more than 3,200 of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes reported perilously low supplies of essential PPE including masks, gowns, gloves, eye protectors or hand sanitizer, Kaiser reports. Of those with less than a week’s supply of protective gear on hand, almost 1,000 had reported at least one coronavirus infection. These shortages, based on federal records, come in spite of President Donald Trump’s pledge on April 30th to “deploy every resource and power that we have” to protect older Americans.
In spite of the virus’s toll in nursing homes – more than 217,000 cases and 43,000 deaths, Kaiser states – there are still widespread personal PPE shortages in some parts of the country. “Some homes still have not received the first of two batches of supplies the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would ship in May,” the article alleges. “Instead, some got only cloth masks that the Department of Health and Human Services commissioned through a contract with HanesBrands, the apparel company known for its underwear.” These masks, says an HHS website, “are not intended for caring for contagious patients.” This has sent nursing homes “scrounging for supplies in a chaotic market with jacked-up prices and continued scarcity.”
PPE Shortages: Feds Promised Quick Action and Cash Support, but Results are Mixed
Government officials tell a different story, Kaiser reports. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says they started shipping PPE supplies at “the soonest possible date” and had sent shipments to nearly 11,300 nursing homes as of June 4th. Yet according to records kept by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, critical shortages are rampant. More than 700 skilled nursing facilities have run out of N95 face masks and another 2,000 have less than a one-week supply. “But FEMA is not shipping any N95 masks, and nursing homes are having trouble obtaining them from other sources,” the article states.
The Trump Administration has promised $5 billion in relief funds to nursing homes, out of a total of $175 billion appropriated by Congress. But grants alone won’t cut it, say nursing home administrators. Several told Kaiser Health News that “money doesn’t solve the broken private supply chains, where the availability of PPE is spotty and the equipment is vastly overpriced.” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit nursing homes and other service agencies for older people, was blistering in her criticism. “Too often, the only signs of FEMA’s much-hyped promise of PPE are scattershot delivery with varying amounts of ragtag supplies,” she said.
Here at the AgingOptions blog we’ll keep an eye on this developing story. Meanwhile, if you or a loved one are a nursing home resident, we hope your facility is among the fortunate ones with adequate PPE supplies on hand. The health of staff and residents may depend on it.
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(Originally reported at www.khn.org)
Photo Credit: Pamela Black via Kaiser Health News