The elderly population is at much higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19. It’s heartbreaking how the virus is battering elderly nursing home residents.

Should we move infected patients to skilled nursing homes that house our most vulnerable?

It’s a difficult dilemma. Yes, we need housing for COVID patients – but, no, we don’t want to spread the virus to our most helpless.

Last Thursday the State released a new policy authorizing nursing homes “to establish COVID-19 Regional Hubs to care for COVID residents.”  Here is the full policy:

What does this mean? Here is a summary:

1. COVID residents (from hospitals, other nursing homes or assisted living communities) can be transferred and housed in skilling nursing homes designated as “Regional Hubs”.

2. A Regional Hub can be a whole building or a dedicated part of an existing nursing home. My opinion – it will be difficult to dedicate only part of a nursing home to caring for COVID patients. Nursing homes have common kitchens, utensils, equipment, doctors, nurses, and employees.  How do you completely separate those with COVID from those without? Separate buildings/facilities would do a better job of isolating the virus.

3. The State has waived many admission requirements. For example, verification of Medicaid eligibility, level of care determination, preadmission screening, etc., are not required before admitting a COVID patient to a regional hub.

4. If you live in regional hub, you don’t have any way to object to your facility receiving COVID patients. And, you have limited options if the nursing home decides to take on COVID residents. Can you move out? I guess you can move home if you have a loved one willing to handle 24/7 care for you. You can also change facilities, but it is not easy in this environment.

4. Rules like this generally have a public comment period before implementation. Here the new rules are in force immediately. The State is taking comments as it implements the rule, but any comments will likely be made after the fact.

What does this all mean? It appears that we may have “flattened the curve” and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for most of us. But this is NOT true of nursing home residents. Our most vulnerable have a long road ahead before getting back to what we would all consider “normal”.

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