The head of New Hampshire’s nursing home association told NHJournal that he was horrified by reports that New York requires nursing home facilities to accept COVID-19 infected patients, calling it “genocide.”
On Friday, the New York Times reported that California, New Jersey and New York have made nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients from hospitals.
“New York issued a strict new rule last month: Nursing homes must readmit residents sent to hospitals with the coronavirus and accept new patients as long as they are deemed ‘medically stable.’ California and New Jersey have also said that nursing homes should take in such patients,” the Times reported.
“Whoever made this decision, whoever did this, I consider this a sentence of death for all the older patients, whoever is in a nursing home,” said Mina Ebrahem, a physical therapist who has worked at multiple New York nursing homes with coronavirus patients.
New Hampshire has been waging its own uphill battle to protect nursing home residents, who represent a disproportionate number of coronavirus fatalities in the state. More than 90 percent of the 60 COVID-19 deaths were over 60 years old.
Six of the seven deaths announced on Saturday — the deadliest day in New Hampshire thus far — were residents of long-term care facilities according to Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette at Monday’s COVID-19 news conference. She also announced new outbreaks at three nursing home facilities across the state.
Which is why it’s so important to keep those in nursing home care protected from anyone infected with the coronavirus, says Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association.
“Mercifully, this policy isn’t in place in New Hampshire,” Williams told NHJournal. “I think that order in New York is tantamount to genocide.”
At least 3,500 New York nursing-home residents have died from the coronavirus. In states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, more than half of their coronavirus deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities. The idea is that most people can start going out to eat or getting their hair cut as long as the virus is contained within nursing home walls.
Unlike New York and other states, New Hampshire’s long-term care facilities have the ability to refuse to accept COVID-19 patients at their facilities in order to protect current residents. And it’s not just the coronavirus.
“Nursing homes have long been careful about accepting patients with respiratory ailments that could be contagious,” Williams said. “And we have exacting infection-control protocols, which have been effective against the flu and the norovirus. Unfortunately, the coronavirus turns out to be something completely different. The fact that people can be asymptomatic creates such a danger for us.”
Williams also called out New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for refusing to accept responsibility for the policy and instead blaming the caregivers for the deadly outcomes.
On April 23, Cuomo was asked what went wrong in New York’s nursing homes.
“Nothing went wrong! Nothing,” he insisted. “Mother Nature brought a virus and the virus attacks old people, and nothing went wrong. Nobody’s to blame,” he said.
Williams isn’t alone in his opposition to Cuomo’s policy.
“Fortunately, Pennsylvania officials have not issued a mandate requiring nursing home operators to accept patients infected with COVID-19 who are being discharged from hospitals,” Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Health Care Association, told NHJournal. “And that’s the way it should remain.”
In New Hampshire, Williams says, the healthcare community has been able to assemble what he calls “the coalition of the willing.”
“We’ve got facilities who are able to take hospital discharges, but as a condition of taking those patients, the state is requiring a [COVID-19] test before they are sent from the hospital to the nursing home. That’s very reassuring,” Williams said.