By Christopher Harper
Covid-19 has uncovered an incredible dirty secret that nursing home and long-term care facilities are killers.
Not only have roughly 20 percent of the 50,000-plus deaths occurred in these facilities, but the virus has also shown an industry that thrives on death, allowing nearly 400,000 to die each year—often from diseases they get in the homes.
Moreover, many hospitals rejected virus victims during the crisis after they become ill because those in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable because of their age and underlying conditions.
In New Jersey, 17 bodies were piled up in a nursing home morgue, and more than a quarter of a Virginia home’s residents died. At least 24 people at a facility in Maryland have died; more than 100 residents and workers have been infected at another in Kansas; and people have died in centers for military veterans in Florida, Nevada, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington. In the Philadelphia suburbs, a top-rated facility, the Southeastern Veterans’ Center has had nearly 30 people die and expects to see more.
New York officials disclosed the names of 72 long-term care facilities that have had five or more deaths, including the Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn where 55 people died. At least 14 nursing homes in New York City and its suburbs recorded more than 25 coronavirus-related deaths. In New Jersey, officials revealed that infections have broken out in 394 long-term facilities — almost two-thirds of the state’s homes — and that more than 1,500 deaths were tied to nursing facilities, DaTimes reported. See more at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/us/coronavirus-nursing-homes.html
“They’re sitting ducks, the veterans,” said one family member told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They are dying alone, that makes me utterly mad. It’s inhumane. And they’re withholding information about how dire it is.” For more, see https://www.inquirer.com/news/southeastern-veterans-center-coronavirus-chester-county-covid-20200425.html
The center is one of the best in the State of Pennsylvania, with a long waiting list.
All told, there are about 15,000 nursing homes in the United States, which house about 1.3 million people.
In Pennsylvania, about 126,000 people live in these facilities. Nearly half of Pennsylvania’s known coronavirus-related deaths have been residents of long-term-care facilities.
Because one of the first outbreaks of Covid-19 occurred in a Washington nursing home, most facilities were put on notice about the problems.
But the underlying issues left many facilities unprepared. These problems include a lack of personal protective equipment, the inability to maintain social distancing among residents, inadequate staff, and the failure to act quickly enough when residents exhibited symptoms of the disease.
Many of the staff are paid at the minimum wage and often job at a facility for a short period.
Moreover, many state agencies fail to enforce local and federal standards on how the facilities should function.
As the pandemic slows down, investigators should turn their attention to the severe problems that exist in nursing homes and long-term care facilities to protect those who are most likely to die and have no other place to go.