Expect a panel appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to make recommendations on how to reopen nursing homes to visitors in the coming days.
Don’t be surprised, though, if the recommendations issued by the Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long Term Care Facilities go beyond visitation to include fixes to the state’s inconsistent COVID-19 testing policies.
To help free up space in hospitals and to ensure that people receive care in the most appropriate settings, the state last month published an emergency rule that allowed hospitals to discharge nursing home residents based on their symptoms.
The July rule replaced a previous emergency rule that required residents to have two negative tests 24 hours apart prior to transfer.
Though the symptoms-based policy has been in place for a month, hospitals routinely report that some nursing homes still require two negative tests.
Nursing homes say that’s because the two-test rule is still the standard included in state Emergency Order 20-006. The order remains in effect until the first week of September and includes the ban on nursing home visitation.
Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew said her agency has worked to educate long-term care providers and others about the new requirements. Based on guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new guidelines allow residents to be transferred 10 days after initial COVID-19 symptoms appeared, so long as their breathing has improved and they have been fever-free for three days without the use of medication.
“We can look at other avenues to expand our education on that front and to reinforce the importance of the symptom-based (guidelines),” Mayhew said Thursday after a UF Health representative asked what the state was doing to keep nursing homes and durable medical equipment providers abreast of the policy. “Again, what we continue to reiterate is not only is the individual no longer infectious after that period, it also is about the individual being served in the most appropriate setting.”
If the symptom-based guidance can be used for the transfer of residents out of hospitals and into long-term care facilities, can it also be used as the benchmark to return long-term care staff to work?
That’s a question Jay Faherty, chief executive officer at Deluxe Specialty Hospital Tallahassee, has repeatedly asked on statewide phone calls with health officials, noting that the symptom-based strategy is at odds with the emergency order, which requires that long-term care staff and residents have two negative tests before being returned.
Mayhew acknowledged Thursday that the policies were “inconsistent” and that the emergency order would be updated, She also told him that “we have been encouraging employees in those facilities to be following the CDC guidelines on return to work.”
Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida.