WFXT FOX25: COVID-19 patients sent to struggling nursing homes during surge

July 16, 2020
by Kerry Kavanaugh, Jason Solowski, and Patricia Alulema
COVID-19 patients sent to struggling nursing homes during surge

At the end of March, state health officials needed a plan to preserve capacity levels at hospitals. That’s when they turned to nursing homes. “They were part of the backup plan,” said Arlene Germain, Policy Director with the Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “But I don’t know why they were part of the backup plan. It’s just common sense that you don’t commingle COVID patients with such vulnerable nursing homes residents.”

…For months, Germain’s group has been questioning the state’s plan to put coronavirus positive patients in facilities with “most vulnerable to this deadly disease.”

…25 Investigates has learned pretty much any nursing home was eligible and they received financial incentives.

Facilities only needed to fill out an attestation form, stating they have a COVID-19 isolation space – either a floor, wing or room – and that they had the capacity to accept new residents. In exchange, the state freed up millions in additional funding for homes.

“So the question is, what kind of vetting really did happen?” added Germain.

…We also found some homes on the state’s list had been flagged by federal auditors for a variety of issues including poor staffing, poor plans for controlling the spread of infectious disease and some even had a history of abuse.

“Bringing in even more patients was just creating an additional burden [for nursing homes] that wasn’t necessary,” said Germain. “We should really take a hard look at these isolation units and not keep perpetuating them,” said Germain. “It’s not worth the risk. It’s not worth their lives. It’s not worth the lives of their health care workers.