Around the nation, nursing houses making an attempt to guard their residents from the coronavirus eagerly await containers of masks, eyewear and robes promised by the federal authorities. But all too usually the packages ship disappointment — in the event that they arrive in any respect.
Some comprise flimsy surgical masks or material face coverings which can be explicitly not supposed for medical use. Others are lacking objects or have far lower than the complete week’s price of protecting gear the federal government promised to ship. Instead of correct medical robes, many packages maintain giant blue plastic ponchos.
“It’s like putting a trash bag on,” stated Pamela Black, the administrator of Enterprise Estates Nursing Center in Enterprise, Kansas. “There’s no real place for your hands to come out.”
As nursing houses stay the pandemic’s epicenter, the federal authorities is failing to make sure they’ve all the non-public protecting gear, or PPE, wanted to stop the unfold of the virus, in keeping with interviews with directors and federal knowledge.
Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge April 30 to “deploy every resource and power that we have” to guard older Americans, a fifth of the nation’s nursing houses — three,213 out of greater than 15,000 — reported over the last two weeks of May that that they had lower than per week’s provide of masks, robes, gloves, eye protectors or hand sanitizer, in keeping with federal data. Of these, 946 reported that they had not less than one confirmed COVID an infection for the reason that pandemic started.
“The federal government’s failure to nationalize the supply chain and take control of it contributed to the deaths in nursing homes,” stated Scott LaRue, president and CEO of ArchCare, the well being care system of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which operates 5 nursing houses.
Widespread gear shortages proceed in some locations because the virus rages lethally by nursing houses and different long-term care services. More than 217,000 short-term patients and long-term residents in nursing homes have contracted COVID-19, and 43,000 have died.
Some houses nonetheless haven’t obtained the first of two batches of supplies the Federal Emergency Management Agency stated it could ship in May. Instead, some received solely material masks that the Department of Health and Human Services commissioned by a contract with HanesBrands, the attire firm identified for its underwear. An HHS webpage says the masks should not supposed for caring for contagious sufferers however could be given to staff for his or her commutes or to residents after they depart their rooms.
As houses maintain scrounging for provides in a chaotic market with jacked-up costs and continued shortage, 653 expert nursing services knowledgeable the federal government that they had utterly run out of a number of forms of protecting provides sooner or later within the final two weeks of May, in keeping with data launched final week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS.
“The federal government has got to step up,” stated Lori Smetanka, govt director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, an advocacy group primarily 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?”
A ‘Relentless Commitment’
In April, Trump pledged his administration “will never waver in its relentless commitment to America’s seniors.” But FEMA’s shipments of masks, gloves, robes and eye safety have had a extra modest goal: “to serve as a bridge between other PPE shipments.”
In written feedback, FEMA defended the standard of the poncho robes however stated that due to complaints, the contractor was making a “short instructional video about proper use of the gowns” to share with houses. FEMA officers stated that, as of June four, the company had shipped packages to 11,287 nursing houses, beginning at “the soonest possible date in the COVID-19 global supply chain climate.”
Yet 67 of the Good Samaritan Society’s 147 nursing houses haven’t obtained a FEMA cargo, together with houses which can be preventing the most important outbreaks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Greeley, Colorado; and Omaha, Nebraska, in keeping with Nate Schema, the Evangelical Lutheran society’s vp of operations. “We have not received a shipment in our six or seven hot spots,” he stated.
The provides that did arrive tended to be in a single dimension solely, he stated, and “the quality wasn’t quite up to the same level we’ve been receiving” by the society’s affiliation with Sanford Health, a big hospital and doctor system.
The society has sufficient gear, however small nursing house teams and impartial houses are nonetheless struggling, notably with acquiring N95 masks, which filter out tiny particles of the virus and are thought of one of the best ways to guard each nursing house workers and residents from transmitting it.
The CMS data present 711 nursing houses reported having run out of N95 masks, and 1,963 stated that they had lower than per week’s price. But FEMA just isn’t transport any N95 masks, and nursing houses are having hassle acquiring them from different sources. Instead, it’s sending surgical masks, however greater than 1,000 houses have lower than per week’s provide of these.
Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, obtained a FEMA cargo this week that had face shields and gloves, however solely three days’ price of surgical masks and “very low low-grade quality” robes that lacked sleeves, stated Katie Andreano, a Messiah communications specialist.
Only two of ArchCare’s 5 nursing houses have obtained any FEMA shipments though it’s primarily based in New York City, the location of the nation’s greatest outbreak. The gear for these two houses lasted lower than per week. LaRue tried to obtain gear from overseas, however all the potential suppliers turned out to be fraudulent. He stated ArchCare has needed to depend on sporadic provides from the state and metropolis emergency administration workplaces.
“As we sit here today, I’m still not able to get more than a few days’ supply of N95 masks, and I still struggle to a certain extent with gowns,” LaRue stated. “That doesn’t make you sleep at night, because you’re not sure when the next delivery comes.”
‘It’s Not Going To Work’
In addition to the provides, the administration has dedicated $5 billion to nursing houses out of $175 billion in supplier aid funds appropriated by Congress. Hospitals are getting way more. Administrators stated cash doesn’t resolve the damaged non-public provide chains, the place the supply of PPE is spotty and the gear is vastly overpriced.
“Too often, the only signs of FEMA’s much-hyped promise of PPE are scattershot delivery with varying amounts of ragtag supplies,” stated Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an affiliation of nonprofit nursing houses and different service businesses for older folks.
The material masks from HHS have been notably perplexing to nursing house directors, given the caveats that accompanied them. The directions for the masks stated they may very well be washed as much as 15 occasions, in keeping with Sondra Norder, president and CEO of St. Paul Elder Services in Kaukauna, Wisconsin.
“I don’t know how we would possibly track how many times each mask has been washed,” she stated. The directions additionally stated the masks shouldn’t be washed with disinfectants, bleach or chemical compounds, which is how Norder stated nursing houses clear their laundry.
Norder stated she laundered about 100 masks they usually shrank. “The ones that have been washed are tiny, and I certainly wouldn’t want to put something on someone’s face that hasn’t been laundered,” she stated. “All my colleagues [at other nursing homes] received the same thing and were also baffled by it, wondering, ‘How are we going to use these?’”
KHN senior correspondent Christina Jewett contributed to this report.