Hill Country Observer: The Threat To Our Elders, Testing, transparency at issue as virus sweeps through region’s nursing homes

May, 2020
Hill Country Observer: The Threat To Our Elders, Testing, transparency at issue as virus sweeps through region’s nursing homes
by Tracy Frisch

Alison Weingartner, the advocacy group’s executive director, said Massachusetts was not reporting Covid-19 cases by nursing home until new federal rules required facilities to begin reporting that data.

“We need some transparency,” Weingartner said. “There hasn’t been any until it was forced.”

On April 20, the state announced that long-term care facilities would have to begin reporting Covid-19 cases. By the end of April, state figures revealed long-term care facilities accounted for more than half the documented cases in the state – and nearly 60 percent of the deaths. In addition, two-thirds of the nursing facilities across the state had at least one Covid-19 case…

…Weingartner said the controversy surrounding the state’s handling of Covid-19 patients has helped to focus public attention on the conditions in nursing homes.

“What it has done is shine a light on how the nursing home industry is understaffed, underpaid, overwhelmed and not controlling infections,” Weingartner said. “Prior to the pandemic, in a three-year period, two-thirds of all nursing homes were cited for their infection control practices. People don’t understand how bad it is. Now that the light has been shone on these inadequacies, what we as advocates hope is that they’ll finally be addressed in a comprehensive way.”

WGBH: State Watchdogs Have Been Banned From Nursing Homes, Along With All Visitors

WGBH: State Watchdogs Have Been Banned From Nursing Homes, Along With All Visitors

April 20, 2020
WGBH State Watchdogs Have Been Banned From Nursing Homes, Along With All Visitors

Elder advocates and watchdog groups don’t question the rationale to curb infection, but they say the lack of oversight could undermine the care of these elders at a critical time, as nursing homes are becoming hot spots for infections.

“There’s not as many eyes looking at them,” said Alison Weingartner, executive director of the Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “If you don’t have the family members, you don’t have the ombudsmen coming in to see them, there’s a potential for neglect that won’t be witnessed by anybody else.”

Elder advocates and watchdogs like Weingartner said nursing home operators have not earned that trust. They pointed to government inspections over the last three years that found more than two-thirds of nursing homes in the state violated infection control standards.

Weingartner said that barring family members and ombudsmen increases the need for transparency from all the elder-housing facilities in the state through daily COVID-19 reports. State lawmakers are now pushing for legislation to make that happen.

Cambridge Day: Testing for nursing home coronavirus infections shows 24 cases, filling in blanks from early Apri

Cambridge Day: Testing for nursing home coronavirus infections shows 24 cases, filling in blanks from early Apri

April 11, 2020
Testing for nursing home coronavirus infections shows 24 cases, filling in blanks from early April
Sue Reinert

Families of nursing home residents have complained of not being able to find out the situation at their loved ones’ homes from the state or the nursing homes. “The transparency has been unbelievable – there isn’t any,” said Alison Weingartner, executive director of Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. The organization opposes clearing out some nursing homes to make room for Covid-19 patients leaving hospitals but still needing care.

Boston Globe: Before coronavirus, 2 out of 3 Mass. nursing homes broke the rules for preventing outbreaks

Boston Globe: Before coronavirus, 2 out of 3 Mass. nursing homes broke the rules for preventing outbreaks

April 9, 2020
Boston Globe: Before coronavirus, 2 out of 3 Mass. nursing homes broke the rules for preventing outbreaks
by Matt Rocheleau & Robert Weisman

But with nursing homes now turning away visitors, Alison Weingartner, executive director of the Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said she worried about a lack of accountability.
“There’s less eyes on them,” she said. “Now that family members can’t get in, that’s exacerbated the problem and the ombudsmen can’t get in, either — so who is watching them?”

Boston Globe: Plan to turn nursing homes into COVID-19 recovery sites stirs anxiety

Boston Globe: Plan to turn nursing homes into COVID-19 recovery sites stirs anxiety

April 4, 2020
Boston Globe: Plan to turn nursing homes into COVID-19 recovery sites stirs anxiety
Laura Crimaldi

Some advocates have pressed Baker to abandon the nursing home plan and consider using dormitories, hotel rooms, and recently closed facilities to house recovering COVID-19 patients.
“While well intentioned, the experience, now temporarily halted, with the first two facilities in Worcester and Wilmington clearly demonstrates the risks involved with dislocating frail, vulnerable nursing home residents,” said a statement from leaders at three organizations that advocate for elderly and Paul J. Lanzikos, the state’s secretary for elder affairs in the 1980s.

Boston Globe: 51 residents positive for coronavirus at Wilmington nursing home, despite having no symptoms

Boston Globe: 51 residents positive for coronavirus at Wilmington nursing home, despite having no symptoms

April 3, 2020
Boston Globe: 51 residents positive for coronavirus at Wilmington nursing home, despite having no symptoms
Robert Weisman

Four groups that advocate for nursing home residents have opposed Baker’s plan, including Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. Arlene Germain, the organization’s policy director, said the 51 cases at AdviniaCare show the dangers that seniors face.

“That age group is most at risk and they’re already vulnerable — that’s why they’re in a nursing home. This will go through like wildfire,” Germain said, adding later, “We are pushing very hard to keep them in place and have asked the state to look elsewhere for these 1,000 rooms.”

Salem News: Advocates raise alarm on nursing home transfers

Salem News: Advocates raise alarm on nursing home transfers

April 2, 2020
Salem News: Advocates raise alarm on nursing home transfers
Paul Leighton

The Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform is also opposing the transfers. The organization, along with other advocates, wrote a letter to state Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders saying the plan “puts nursing home residents in great and unnecessary jeopardy.”

Boston Globe: Anticipating surge, Boston area facilities moving residents and patients to set up coronavirus recovery centers

April 1, 2020
Boston Globe: Anticipating surge, Boston area facilities moving residents and patients to set up coronavirus recovery centers
[4/2/20 Boston Globe: Patients move for recovery center — “Nursing home advocates decry push to move patients”]
Robert Weisman

“It’s a nightmare,” said Arlene Germain, policy director of the Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “It’s like an eviction. I don’t see the need. There are so many options in Massachusetts with dormitories, athletic fields and empty nursing homes. It’s a recipe for disaster.”