Nursing homes are operating with minimal access to protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Florida long-term care advocacy group.
In an update to state lawmakers Thursday, the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) said only 47% of nursing homes have enough protective equipment to last two weeks while 80% have enough to last a week. And most facilities’ personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies would be depleted if a resident or staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
With a global crunch for PPE and despite dishing out half a billion dollars to buy equipment, the state’s Division of Emergency Management has had difficulty securing the supplies it has ordered. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the White House had secured 1 million face masks for Florida from 3M, 800,000 of which were distributed starting the next day.
FHCA has told long-term care facilities to alert local emergency management offices if someone in their facility tests positive to receive a faster infusion of PPE.
Nearly 1,400 long-term care patients and staff have tested positive and 126 have died. But while the DeSantis administration resists releasing the names of the facilities with infections, the association reported that fewer than 100 nursing homes and assisted living facilities have had confirmed cases of the COVID-19.
Nearly 700 nursing homes and more than 3,000 assisted living facilities are home to 155,000 residents in Florida.
FHCA surveyed 160 nursing homes and found that the majority had received incomplete orders of PPE from local emergency management offices.
“Private sources of PPE are beginning to become available, but it will be a few weeks until there are comfortable supply margins,” according to the FHCA report.
Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew and FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed briefed members of the Legislature on the status of Florida’s nursing homes.
“Getting through this crisis will require the full efforts of state officials, policymakers, the long-term care profession, and the general public,” Reed said.
As the global pandemic continues, the state must consider a special Session, which looks increasingly more likely as the continued economic effects of the virus weigh down.
But where the state’s economic future looks less certain, even as the Governor prepares to call a task force to discuss what reopening society amid the pandemic would look like, health care workers have taken additional actions to protect Florida’s nursing home residents.
Facilities bar nonessential visitors, including family members, and staff members and vendors that enter the facility must pass health screenings and questionnaires. On Monday, DeSantis announced the Florida National Guard would send 10 teams to nursing homes, beginning in South Florida, to preemptively test for COVID-19. Already, the state sends rapid response teams if someone in a facility tests positive.
FHCA and AHCA have also taken steps to help the manpower shortage at nursing homes, which becomes a particular problem as outbreaks among staff begin. An FHCA training program prepares people to support certified nursing assistants and AHCA has issued guidance on background checks for new hires.
And federal assistance from the CARES Act is on its way. Florida health care providers received an estimated $2.2 billion of the $30 billion cash infusion in the first wave of CARES Act distributions.